The Patel vote: The decisive factor in Gujarat electionsOnce the BJP’s most loyal votebank, the Patels, which constitute 12-14% of the state’s population, powered the BJP’s rise in state in the 1990s.A drill down into the 2012 results offers some clues on the impact any shift in the Patel vote could have on the Gujarat election results this year.
If Hardik Patel rallies are anything to go by, the BJP in Gujarat should not take the Patel vote for granted this time. Once the BJP’s most loyal vote bank, the Patels, which constitute 12-14 percent of the state’s population, powered the BJP’s rise in state in the 1990s.
This time round no one is sure which way the Patel vote will swing. Will they listen to Hardik’s pleas to not vote for the BJP or do they just throng his rallies to just see him? Can Hardik Patel’s Patidar agitation really upset the BJP’s apple cart? If so, how badly? That’s the big question in the Gujarat assembly elections this year.
A drill down into the 2012 results offers some clues on the impact any shift in the Patel vote could have on the Gujarat election results this year.
The Patels are most well entrenched-constituencies where their population is higher than 9 per cent-in north and south Gujarat. (See graphic below) These constituencies largely comprise diamond and textile hubs, were BJP bastions in the 2012 elections as the deep saffron in the map below indicates.
n south Gujarat, the BJP won 28 seats in constituencies with a high Patel population. Of these, it won 24—Anand, Surat, Bharuch, Navsari and Valsad—with a victory margin of over 10 percent. It won three seats with a victory margin of 5-10 percent and one with a margin of less than 10 percent. The area clearly, a saffron citadel, is also largely urban. Sure, Hardik Patel has received unprecedented support from the Patel community here, particularly in Surat, but with saffron so deeply entrenched, even a 10% shift in the Patel votes to the Congress is unlikely to dislodge the BJP.
n north Gujarat however, the story could be a little different. In Patan, Mehsana, Banaskantha, Gandhinagar North and South, constituencies, the BJP’s victory margin was under 5%, while in Surendranagar and Sabarkantha constituencies its victory margins were between 5-10%. Clearly, the BJP is on a weaker wicket here and even a slight shift in the Patel vote will adversely impact its chances.
What the number foretell? The Patel factor won’t stop the BJP from winning, but may well weaken its grip on the state.