Chief Minister Narendra Modis decision to field Saurashtra heavyweight Vitthal Radadiya and his son Jayesh in June 2 bypolls is likely to take wind out of Khodaldham movement,which had posed a serious challenge to the ruling BJP in politically decisive Saurashtra in run-up to December 2012 Assembly elections.
The movement,which began in January 2012 when Leuva Patels gathered in record numbers at Kagvad near Jetpur to pledge their support for the construction of a grand temple of their community deity there,had quickly turned into a proxy anti-Modi campaign. Modis bitter rival and former chief minister Keshusbhai Patel was also present at the function and Radadiya had played a key role in mobilising the crowd.
A number of such shows of strength by Leuva Patels were later held in the state.
Exit of Vitthal Radadiya from Congress has left a divided house of Khodaldham Trust,whose leaders had actively campaigned for Radadiya and Keshubhai in the last Assembly elections, said a functionary from the Khodaldham Trust.
A politically weaker Khodaldham Trust means a relatively trouble-free sailing in Saurashtra-Kutch for Modi in the Lok Sabha elections due next year since Leuva Patels influence nearly 20 of the total 54 Assembly seats in the region. Radadiya is the representative of Khodaldham from the Leuva Patel belt of Jetpur,Dhoraji,Porbandar and Rajkot. So far,his presence gave the movement a tilt towards Congress. BJP has now changed that to its advantage before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, said a top BJP leader from Saurashtra.
Radadiya,however,maintained Khodaldham was a social and religious movement,and not political. My and Jayeshs constituencies have many Leuva Patel voters who are followers of Khodaldham. But I would like to call it a social and religious movement, he said.
With the Radadiyas contesting as BJP candidates,Gujarat Parivartan Party led by Keshubhai Patel too has lost a well-wisher and friend in Saurashtra.