Having a diverse set of politically active communities, Patan Lok Sabha constituency is known to set the mood and inclination of voters for other seats in North Gujarat, where a neck-to-neck contest is expected between the Congress and BJP.
This time, Patan is witnessing a battle between two political veterans, BJP’s Liladhar Vaghela and Bhavsinh Rathod from Congress. The seat on which Congress won in 2009, is expected towitness a keen contest this time. The Congress is banking on its prospects to win this seat.
Rathod, who left Congress ahead of 2009 Lok Sabha election to get ticket from BJP, lost to Congress candidate Jagdish Thakor with a thin margin of 18000 votes. Few months back, Rathod once again joined Congress, calling it ‘home comming’. When sitting Congress MP Thakor decided not to contest election this time, Congress gave ticket to Rathod.
While Vaghela, who was a teacher by profession, is considered as a ‘gentleman’ and ‘local’ as his ancestral roots are here, Rathod, also known as ‘Bhavsinh kaka’ in Patan, is a force to reckon with, as he showed his prowess earlier by winning as independent MLA when denied ticket by both the parties in the past. Though Rathod has become mild now, he used to be identified as an aggressive leader in Patan.
Votes of Thakor community hold the key to victory in Patan, as out of total 15.38 crore voters here, 4.66 lakhs belong to Thakor community, making them the single largest group of voters in Patan, followed by Dalits (1.62 lakhs), Muslims (1.58 lakhs), Chaudhary (1.08 lakhs) and Patels (1.06 lakhs).
Since both Vaghela and Rathod belong to Thakor community,it is believed that Thakor votes are divided among them equally. Similarly, there is no vast difference in 7 assembly constituencies held by both the parties in Patan. Vadgam, Siddhpur and Kankrej are having Congress MLAs, while Kheralu, Patan, Chanasma and Radhanpur are with BJP.
According to local BJP leaders, Patel voters, not Thakors, hold the key to victory or loss. To make his point, BJP MLA of Patan Ranchhod Desai, gives example of bad ‘Patel voter management’ in 2009 polls, which costed them the seat. “In that election, Rathod was our candidate and lost to Jagdish Thakor because we failed to manage some Patel leaders. Three Patel candidates stood as independents and received almost 50,000 votes cumulatively,” claimed Desai.
Further, N P Patel, who contested on MJP ticket that time, garnered 18000 Patel votes. These were BJP votes that went to them, resulting in our loss with a thin margin of 18000. But this time, all Patel leaders are with us,” said Desai, who is also the in-charge of Patan Lok Sabha seat to make sure that such mistake is not repeated again.
“But this time, whole Patel community is with us, just like they always were. With such strong backing of Patels, we will certainly win this time,” said Desai. On the other side, Congress is riding on their own traditional vote bank of Dalits and Muslims, along with Thakors and Chaudharis.
While addressing a Dalit rally on the outskirts of Patan,Rathod, who was accompanied by GPCC president Arjun Modhwadia, claimed that he suffered a lot during his two-year stay in BJP. “Narendra Modi as the state CM has taught all his MLAs and MPs about how to lie…I never lied in my life, so I came back to Congress,” claimed Rathod, who thanked the Dalit audience for supporting Congress in the past and urged them to continue it.
While talking to PTI, Rathod refused to accept ‘Modi wave’ in Patan. “I don’t see any wave here. BJP government has not done any work for poor. Farmers are still waiting for Narmada waters here. Everyone is angry with BJP-led state government. I am 100 per cent sure that BJP will lose all the four seats in North Gujarat, including Patan,” claimed Rathod.
Supporting his claims, Bhikha Parmar, a Dalit who came to attend the rally from Radhanpur, claimed that Dalits are angry with BJP for not giving them permanent jobs. “On the issue of contract based work system, whole Dalit community is against BJP. All our votes are with Congress. Rathod always remained by our side and helped us in every manner in the past,” said Parmar.
However, the young voters see hope in Modi and likes to ride on Modi wave. “We see a ray of hope in Narendra Modi, who will do something for youths like us. Though our elders used to support Congress, we are in favour of Modi”, said a group of youngsters of Chansma town.