Con­gress’s at­tempts at caste coali­tion in Gu­jarat elec­tions will back­fire: BJP

Times of Oman - - WORLD -

NEW DELHI: The Con­gress may hope to up­set the BJP in Gu­jarat with a rain­bow coali­tion of dif­fer­ent castes, but the saf­fron party be­lieves that the move will back­fire and end up boost­ing its prospects.

BJP lead­ers, who are part of their party’s Gu­jarat Assem­bly poll cam­paign, said the Con­gress’s strat­egy to bring OBCs and Pati­dars, two groups ac­count­ing for more than half of the state’s vot­ers, un­der its ban­ner is full of con­tra­dic­tions as the two com­mu­ni­ties have com­pet­ing in­ter­ests and am­bi­tions.

Pati­dar leader Hardik Pa­tel’s warn­ing to the Con­gress to com­mit it­self to his com­mu­nity’s quota de­mand by Novem­ber 3 or face dire con­se­quences, is be­ing seen by the BJP as a clear sign of these con­tra­dic­tions.

Reach­ing out to the OBC, the Con­gress had re­cently in­ducted Alpesh Thakor, who has ral­lied the com­mu­nity against the de­mand for in­clud­ing Pati­dars in the ex­ist­ing OBC quota.

While the op­po­si­tion party has also tried to win over Pa­tel but Thakor has in­sisted that the OBC quota can­not be tin­kered with.

The BJP, which has re­mained un­de­feated in the state Assem­bly polls since 1995, has re­lied on the con­sol­i­da­tion of vot­ers around its plank of Hin­dutva and ‘vikas’ (de­vel­op­ment), main­tain­ing a lead of close to 10 per cent over the Con­gress in vote share.

Pati­dars have been the lynch­pin of the BJP’s sup­port and its lead­ers, who did not wish to be named, in­sisted that a ma­jor­ity of them will con­tinue to back it de­spite a sense of un­rest among a sec­tion of the com­mu­nity against the party.

They played down Pa­tel’s elec­toral sig­nif­i­cance, not­ing that a leader of the stature of for­mer chief min­is­ter Keshub­hai Pa­tel could notch up less than four per cent of votes when his Gu­jarat Pari­var­tan Party (GPP) fought against the BJP in the 2012 elec­tions.

The GPP had won only two seats and it later merged with the BJP. How­ever, some po­lit­i­cal watch­ers be­lieve that Hardik Pa­tel’s cam­paign against the BJP has struck a chord in the com­mu­nity as the quota is­sue raised by him has more res­o­nance than Keshub­hai’s fight which was con­fined to op­pos­ing the then chief min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, now the prime min­is­ter.

Modi was and re­mains the most pop­u­lar leader in the state and Ke- shub­hai’s cam­paign against him had not paid him much div­i­dends, they said. The BJP lead­ers, how­ever, ap­peared un­fazed.

The ex­ist­ing con­sti­tu­tional bar on quota at 50 per cent makes it im­pos­si­ble for any party to guar­an­tee a sep­a­rate quota to Pati­dars, they said. And any prom­ise to in­clude them in the OBC cat­e­gory will an­tag­o­nise the nu­mer­i­cally pow­er­ful back­ward castes, who make up close to 40 per cent of the state’s elec­torate, they said, adding that the Con­gress will find it tough to meet Hardik Pa­tel’s de­mand.

BJP chief Amit Shah has set a tar­get of 150 seats for the party in the 182-seat Assem­bly. It had won 116 seats in 2012 against 59 of the Con­gress. Full story @ time­so­fo­

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