Both the major political parties, Congress and BJP, have fielded more candidates from the Patidar community for this time’s Lok Sabha elections than in 2014.
The Congress, which had given tickets to only four Patidars in 2014, has fielded eight candidates this time and its rival BJP has fielded six Patidar candidates.
The reason, according to political analysts, is the mobilisation of Patidars by Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) agitation leader Hardik Patel who joined the Congress a few weeks ago. The young Hardik Patel had raised the demand for reservation for Patidars in government jobs and admission in higher and professional educational institutions in the country and organised a series of agitations from June 2015 till a few months ago when the central government came out with a policy for 10 per cent reservation of jobs for economically backward sections of people among the non-reserved categories.
Before Hardik’s movement, the Patidars voted almost as a bloc for BJP and in fact formed the backbone of the BJP in the state. But political equations changed with Hardik’s movement after Narendra Modi shifted to Delhi as Prime Minister in May 2014.
The change in the community’s loyalties was first exhibited in the zilla panchayat elections in November 2015 when the Congress captured 23 zilla panchayats out of 31 in the state, surprising everyone.
The voting pattern of the Patidar community changed further in the 2017 Assembly elections when the Congress improved its performance dramatically and bagged 77 seats, most of them in the Patel dominated Saurashtra region. In 2012, Congress had won only 59 seats.
Political experts say that it is this shift in loyalties that has now forced both the big parties to field more Patidar candidates. Whether this will help the two parties perform better in this election or not will be known only after the results are out but the Patidars have certainly become more important to both the parties. BJP earlier took their support for granted and Congress ignored them because Patidars had shown a general dislike for the party.
If the number of candidates fielded by both the parties are taken together in this general election, the percentage of Patidar contestants come to 26 per cent, more than the percentage of their population which is around 15 per cent.
The Patidar candidates fielded by the Congress are Lalit Vasoya (Porbander), Lalit Kagathara (Rajkot), Prashant Patel (Vadodara), Paresh Dhanani (Amreli), A J Patel (Mahesana), Gita Patel (Ahmedabad East), Ashok Adhevada (Surat) and Manhar Patel (Bhavnagar).
The six Patidars fielded by the BJP are Ramesh Dhaduk (Porbandar), Mitesh Patel (Anand), Shardaben Patel (Mahesana), Mohan Kundariya (Rajkot), Naran Kachadia (Amreli) and Hansmukh Patel (Ahmedabad East).