Caste politics rule the roost in Gujarat

Written by Mukesh Ranjan | Rajkot, Dec 9 | Updated: Dec 10 2007, 04:17am hrs
Various caste combinations in different regions of Gujarat are proving to be antidotes for chief minister Narendra Modis Hidutva card. Unlike the last elections in 2002 in the backdrop of post-Godhra riots, this time around opposition Congress and the BJPs rebel group have meticulously encouraged formation of caste combinations at the regional level to negate any attempt by Modi to polarise votes on communal line and reduce his strength in the state.

If in non-coastal Swarashtra (37seats) the dominant Leuva Patels have combined with OBCs, in the coastal areas of the state (15 seats), Kolis have combined with fishermen (mostly Muslims) and dalits to make sure BJPs defeat. In south Gujarat, (29 seats) also the scene is almost the same, as the BJP rebels in tandem with Congress are driving sizeable tribals while combining them with migrant workers from Swarastra to go against Modi.

Kutch (6), Central (63) and northern Gujarat(32), however, appear to be going Modis way as not only caste factor is in his favour rather his Hindutva and development plank are working well with the masses.

From among the Patels, the majority Leuva have revolted against Modi. As a dominant farming community they have been driving the OBCs of the region, who work for them in the fields, to vote against Modi. Dithering senior BJP leader and former chief minister Keshubhai Patel has great influence on them and he has been working overtime by lending his support to Sardar Patel Utkarsha Samiti, which has been formed by rebel BJP leader Goardhan Jhadafia. Even staunch BJP loyalists accept that Keshubhais Leuva Patel factor will affect BJP on not less than 10 seats of the region.

Similarly in coastal Gujarat, there runs a sense of deprivation, as Kolis, fishermen, dalits are openly coming out with their grievances against the state government. If the trading Kolis have problems with law and order, the fishermen complain about insufficient facility provided to them at ports from where they go deep in Arabian sea for fishing. Similarly, dalits also feel deprived, as local administration has taken back their below poverty line cards on the pretext of their being not belonging to the category.