Contrary to what the huge crowd gathering in Hardik Patel rallies indicate, a substantial chunk of voters that come from numerically strong communities are hardly bothered about the ongoing Patidar quota agitation. In what may be seen as a big relief for BJP, the communities like Kolis, Durbars, Bharwad, Ahirs and others have cleared that the agitation will have no effect on their traditional voting choices, as per a report by The Indian Express. This observation is drawn on the basis of interactions with voters in constituencies from Dhandhuka (Ahmedabad) to Bhavnagar Rural, Mahuva and Talaja (Bhavnagar); Rajula (Amreli); Una, Kodinar and Talala (Gir Somnath); Manavadar and Visavadar (Junagadh); Jetpur and Gondal (Rajkot).
Going by the answers that The Indian Express received during these interactions, the Koli community, which comprises the largest chunk (40 per cent) of the OBC community, seemed in no mood to switch their previous poll preference. Meanwhile, the few who claimed to change their vote seemed to be guided by the candidates in their seats. The caste equation is also a pivotal factor on which the votes will hugely depend upon. Vinu Bhai, an Ahir in his mid-30s said, “The Congress has fielded 8 Ahir candidates, while the BJP has just 2. Otherwise, Modiji is good for Gujarat and the country.” It was also found out during the interactions that the voters prefer to vote for the candidate who belongs to their town. A S Makwana in Una, told IE he might have considered voting for the BJP if the party had fielded someone hailing from his town. Many were also found out to be guided by the anti-incumbency factor.
It is notable that the Congress hopes to strike the right chord by backing three young political activists — Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor, hoping to rewrite the Gujarat 2017 story. For BJP, Narendra Modi, who has steered the party to victory three times, is the flag bearer this time as well. Even if we look back, the Congress, in 1980, had floored a combined caste equation– called KHAM for Kshatriya, Harijan (Dalits), Adivasi (Tribals) and Muslims. This equation brought them to power with a record 141 seats in the 182-member assembly bringing all castes on board. Times might have changed, but one thing is certain, the factors determining votes in the state haven’t flexed much.