Leveraging on the ongoing Patidar agitation, the newly-appointed Vadodara city Congress chief, Anuj Patel, has his targets set at fielding “a sweet number” of Patel candidates, to dent the traditional BJP bastions in the city. Further, he plans to set aside the factional war within the party to gain supremacy over ticket distribution. Although party leaders say the appointment is not in line with the Patidar agitation, with a Patel at the helm of the city unit, voter equations are being recalculated.
Anuj Patel, who took charge of the party’s Vadodara unit on Sunday, flanked by outgoing president Ranjit Chavan and Leader of Opposition Chandrakant Shrivastav, has made it clear that the party’s strategy for the upcoming civic polls is to leverage on the Patidar agitation that has vexed the ruling the BJP government. Patel said that while finalising tickets for the upcoming Vadodara civic polls was his priority, the party was looking at “a sweet number” of Patel candidates in the male and female ratio. “The Patidar andolan was a blessing for us. Many new candidates have come forward and shown interest in participating in the poll process. We are considering them in Patel dominated areas, to get at least 15 to 20 Patel corporators out of the 76, between male and female ratio. For areas that are polarised in favour of Patels, we are working jard to get Patel candidates as the general mind block of the community has been that the Congress is not with them.”
Patel, whose grandfather, Maganbhai Shankarbhai Patel, was president of the party unit during the Mahagujarat andolan, says the party will urge the Patels to look over the Congress tag and vote for community candidates. “This is a local civic poll. It is about candidates. We are trying to develop an atmosphere where we will tell people to look at the candidate not at the party. While we are looking out for Patel candidates, we will also see their qualifications.”
Among the major areas that the Congress is now preparing to field Patels include BJP bastions of Nizampura, Mehsana Nagar, Gorwa. “These are the BJP strongholds due to the dominant Patel votes, but this time the undercurrents are against the BJP. It is not true that Patels are averse to voting for the Congress and we will reach out to them to get as many corporators from the community as we can. Currently, we have no Patels among the 11 sitting corporators. We will see a lot of change in the upcoming election.”
This strategy has meant sleepless nights for some sitting Congress corporators as well as those aspiring for tickets. Patel says that the first phase of “iltering” candidates is already complete. “The process of finalising the names of the candidates is in a very advanced stage. We have kept in mind the caste equation and education qualification very minutely.” Patel says he is unfazed about the possible opposition from party factions to the names of candidates. “There will certainly be many people who might have issues with the final list, but the consultation process is very important,”he said.
Within the party, Patel’s appointment is seen as “perfectly timed”, although senior leaders refused to attribute the reason to be the Patidar agitation alone. A senior leader of the party said, “There were two names in the running for the post as Chavan had expressed desire to step down due to the anxiety surrounding the upcoming election. Apart from Anuj Patel, the other name being considered was veteran leader, Bhikabhai Rabari.