The 93 seats going to polls in the second phase of Gujarat elections include Mehsana, the hotbed of the Patidar agitation in the northern part of the state and the tribal belt where Congress has been traditionally strong. However, BJP hopes relief work done during floods in the north, better prices given for dairy farmers and smaller groups of OBCs will help it secure majority of seats.
By: Rakesh Mohan Chaturvedi
In 2012, BJP had won 52 of the 93 seats in 14 districts but faces a strong anti-incumbency in Mehsana and Patan after the Patel quota agitation launched by Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS). BJP had won three of the five assembly seats in Mehsana in 2012. PM Modi hails from Vadnagar in Mehsana and it is a prestige issue for the party to not lose seats in the belt.
Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor, whose Ekta Manch led a popular campaign on enforcing prohibition, are from the region too. Hardik was barred from entering Mehsana after 14 protestors were shot dead during the Patidar agitation in 2015. Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, a Kadva Patidar, is in the fray in Mehsana city seat and is likely to sail through but several BJP candidates face a tough challenge.
The fate of BJP’s Sidhpur candidate Jay Narayan Vyas, a former minister, hinges on the support he expects from Balwantsinh Rajput who defeated him fighting on a Congress ticket in 2012 but had defected during the Ahmed Patel Rajya Sabha contest and joined BJP. He is one of the richest politicians in Gujarat and has a lot of support in the constituency.
In Radhanpur, Congress’ Alpesh Thakor is likely to win against Lavingji Thakor, who left Congress after he was denied ticket and is in the fray on a BJP ticket. In Banaskantha district, BJP is hopeful that the people will vote for it based on relief work done during the August floods. BJP has alleged that Congress legislators from the region were making merry in a resort in Bengaluru during the floods.
The MLAs were taken over to the resort to prevent poaching by BJP before the Rajya Sabha polls. BJP is confident of defeating Dalit activist Jignesh Mevani in Vadgam of Banaskantha district. It is banking on the discontent in Congress, which has not fielded a candidate and has extended support to Mevani.
The BJP government has paid high prices for milk to dairy farmers even though the demand was down this season. It hopes this would translate to votes in Anand and Kheda districts. Unlike tribals up north and in the southern part of Gujarat, communities living in Chhota Udaipur, Godhra, Dahod and Panch Mahal are supporting BJP this time.