Gujarat local bodies polls after Patel quota stir will test BJP

Ahmedabad: The upcoming local bodies election of Gujarat will test BJP’s 20-year dominance over the state political scene as the ruling party grapples with the ramifications of Patel quota agitation.

Patels, a numerically strong community, have been a staunch supporter of the BJP over the years after Congress devised KHAM (Khashtriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim) formulations for winning elections in the state, sidelining the dominant community.

Absence of former chief minister Narendra Modi on the political scene of the state and Patel quota agitation will make local bodies elections’ interesting in Gujarat this time.

Patels, who are perturbed as their demands are not being met, have been disrupting political functions of government and BJP leaders with many Patel societies and villages putting banners banning entry of politicians. They are also pressurising leaders of their community to declare support to their agitation.

The wariness of BJP on quota agitation fallout is evident from the fact that they brought an ordinance to delay polls, which was later quashed by the High Court.

On the other hand, the government has acted with an iron hand and put main quota agitation leaders like Hardik Patel and his aides behind bars in sedition case.

The Congress is looking it as a chance to revive its fortune in the state where it has not had any substantial poll victory in the last two decades. The party is going to raise quota subject as one of the main issues for campaign in the local body polls in the state, where assembly election is due in 2017.

After the declaration of the elections another Patel quota leader Lalji Patel has told his community members that Patels should give vote to those who have supported their agitation.

The Congress has declared support on reservations for the poor among upper caste and has demanded that the state should give 15 to 20 per cent quota to Economically Backward Class (EBCs) of Patels, Brahmins and Rajput communities over and above 49 per cent for OBCs, STs and SCs.

“Instead of giving reservations to EBCs the state government is trying to suppress the agitation by arresting their leaders.”

“They could have done it in way of ordinance or by calling a special session of state assembly,” state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki said expressing confidence that they are going to win the elections. The BJP on the other hand is of the view that declaration of financial package for bright students of upper castes has taken away the sheen of the Patel quota agitation.

“The situation has changed now. We have declared financial package for upper caste bright students and it has been well accepted in the society,” BJP spokesperson Harsad Patel said.

Elections of local bodies were announced by State Election Commission last Friday as per which elections to six municipal corporations will be held on November 22.

On November 29, polling will be held for 31 district panchayats, 230 taluka panchayats and 56 municipalities.

Majority of these local bodies including all the six municipal corporations are at present held by BJP.