Anger among Patidars and business community were the two factors on which Rahul Gandhi banked to corner the Bharatiya Janata Party in Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat. While Gandhi made deals with various Patidar leaders, he vehemently raised the issue of Goods and Services Tax and Demonetisation throughout his elections campaign. But the ploys didn’t pay off for the Congress when results were declared. The business community didn’t vote for the Congress, while the Patidars voted differently in different regions.
In the largely agrarian districts of Amreli and Morbi, all eight seats went to the Congress. Rajkot’s Dhoraji seat went to Lalit Vasoya, a former PAAS member, won on a Congress ticket. Junagadh’s Visavadar seat was also wrested by the Congress. The party also won in Unjha – the constituency with the largest number of Patels in Mehsana district. However, more than Patidar factors, victory in this region reflected the resentment over agrarian policies of the government. Contrary to these results, Surat Varachha Road, Katargam and Kamrej – seats with highest Patel concentration – remained with the BJP.
But what happened to GST and Demonetisation anger?
Congress staged a “Gabbar Singh” rally to protest against GST, and somehow fuel the already existing anger among the business community. Here it seems that the community decided to go by their business instinct and vote for a party that is seen to back the industry. Surat’s diamond industry employs a large number of waged workers. These workers are believed to be influenced by their owners, who are loyal to Modi. One of these diamond traders, Lalji Patel of Dharmanand Diamonds, famously bought Modi’s monogrammed suit at an auction in 2015. All in all, the Congress failed to make gains in urban areas, in spite of a well-thought-out manifesto. Some voters had told the Indian express that they were consistent in their view that they wanted to “teach a lesson to BJP” (paath bhanavo chhe). However, they did not necessarily accept that they would vote for the Congress.
The Patidar dominant areas also saw a drop in votes which is an indicator of lack of enthusiasm. In Kamrej, the turnout dropped by around 7%, in Varachha by 6%, in Katargam by 4%, in Karanj by 8%.