Updated: February 4, 2021 11:04:22 am
Leading members of two sects of Patidar community, Leuva and Kadva, Saturday met at Umiya Dham in Unjha of Mehsana district in North Gujarat. Coming ahead of the important local body elections this month, and assembly elections next year, the meeting is significant.
President of Khodaldham Trust Naresh Patel led a delegation of Leuva Patidars and visited Manibhai Patel, president of Shree Umiya Mataji Sansthan, in Unjha of Mehsana district, and other community leaders.
Khodaldham Trust is the supreme body of Leuva Patidars, whose clan-deity is Goddess Khodal. Shree Umiya Mataji Sansthan is the top body of Kadva Patidars whose deity is Goddess Umiya.
Leuva Patidars are influential in Saurashtra region while Kadva Patidars are influential in North Gujarat region. Both the sects of the Patidar community follow separate social customs and are known not to get along with each other.
The meeting was the first-ever attempt by the two trusts to come together to discuss political, social, and educational progress of the Patidar community.
Who was present at the meeting?
The meeting was presided over by Naresh Patel and Manibhai Patel. It was attended by around 150 leading Patidar community members, which included trustees of Khodaldham Trust, Shree Umiya Mataji Sansthan, Patidar MLAs of North Gujarat and Patidar youth leaders like Gopal Italia, Alpesh Kathiriya, Dharmik Malaviya and Lalji Patel, who actively participated in the Patidar reservation agitation of 2015.
Italia is the current Gujarat president of Aam Aadmi Party. Hardik Patel, who is the working president of the Gujarat Congress and chief leader of the Patidar reservation agitation, was not present in the meeting owing to a bail condition that prohibits him from entering Mehsana district in one of the criminal cases related to the agitation.
What happened at the meeting?
After the meeting, Naresh Patel said the Patidar community has a presence in every field except in politics and government jobs. He added that the meeting was held to discuss how to fill that gap. Manibhai also called for regular meetings between the two sects for the betterment of the community.
The Khodaldham Trust is also planning a temple in North Gujarat. Naresh Patel visited a proposed site of the temple in Sander village of Patan district in North Gujarat after the meeting. The mobilisation for the Khodaldham temple at Kagvad in Rajkot district began in 2012, when its foundation stone was laid and the deity was installed in 2017, both assembly election years for Gujarat.
What is the significance of the meeting?
The meeting has taken place just days ahead of the major local body elections and nearly a year ahead of the all-important Gujarat assembly elections which are due in 2022. The last time the Patidar community, the core votebank of BJP, got together for seeking OBC status in 2015, it had triggered a political storm.
The discontentment in the Patidar community as reflected in the quota agitation played out in the local body elections of 2015, where the BJP lost much ground, especially in the district panchayats and the taluka panchayats. Although it won all the municipal corporations and majority of the municipalities, the number of seats went down. That the impact of the agitation had run deep was again exposed in the 2017 assembly elections when the BJP could not get even 100 seats, and got the lowest ever seats since 1995 when it first came to power in Gujarat with the late Keshubhai Patel at the helm.
The latest development is not as huge as the demand of the OBC status, but political observers believe that the community is trying to strengthen its standing in Gujarat politics even as it is fearing political sidelining.
“After the ouster of Anandiben Patel, demise of Keshubhai Patel, and the treatment being meted to Nitin Patel in the ruling BJP, the Patidar community is apprehending political sidelining. So, the meeting could be seen as the community and its leadership’s attempts to maintain and strengthen its political clout in Gujarat politics. The exact design of the latest development could be known as we come closer to the 2022 assembly elections and events unfold,” said a political observer of Gujarat politics.
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