Are you a Patel? Have You Decided to vote for Congress? All the Best but Do Read this Article Once

patels bjp
Image: PTI

It is a foregone conclusion that BJP would win Gujarat – again. Only interesting point left out is to watch whether BJP will win 150+ seats, a self-target set by Amit Shah or not. 

Why BJP will win?

1. Average Gujarati considers vote for BJP, a vote for Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India and a son of Gujarat.
2. BJP would be replacing about 50% of existing MLAs to counter anti-incumbency.
3. OBCs are strongly be with BJP
4. Vaghela’s exit has rattled Congress
5. Congress has given tickets to all sitting MLAs for their loyalty

Of course, BJP learnt many lessons from the UP elections, wherein they cobbled alliances with some caste based smaller parties with influence in few seats. Though these parties had major influence on few seats, people of these castes supported BJP state wide. And, the result was there for everyone to see. 

Facing a major hurdle in the form of Patel Agitation, one of their core voter blocs in Gujarat, BJP is now considering to offer tickets to many OBC candidates. OBCs in Gujarat represent 35~40% vote share, but are not represented in proportionately represented in the government. On the other hand, Patels command only 13% votes, still they are over-represented in polity and government. Patel’s political and business clout is synonymous with Gujarati way of living, but some Patels were peeved at their under representation in academics and government jobs. They decided to overcome this issue by becoming OBCs themselves. Well, the BJP didn’t succumb to their demand and offered to support the community through EBC quota, which they rejected. 

Even if we consider about 70% of Patels would desert BJP, there is no guarantee that they would vote for Congress.

In a state where elections are primarily between these two parties, Patel community is in a catch-22 situation. It appears Congress too rejected their demand of including them in OBCs and instead offered three proposals for the community leaders to deliberate and consider.

Well, now Patels are left with very choices And, it is really difficult to estimate what they want and whether their choice would be the ideal one. Moreover, with all the indications in BJP’s favour, what would the community gain by supporting Congress? Well, considering the business acumen of Patels, this is one question that would undoubtedly be in the minds of their leaders. 

Even if Congress accepts their demand of including them in OBC category, it would only result in polarising votes of other communities widening the gap between Congress and BJP, in favour of the latter. Where would such situation leave the community at large? Now, it is not about Hardik Patel – an individual. As an individual fighting for a cause by leading it from the front it becomes obligatory for him to explain the situation to his community. 
In all probability, his adamant attitude in rejecting BJP and supporting Congress would only reduce the political clout the community now enjoys. As it is, there would be less number of Patel contenders from BJP. If BJP wins the election but not with a great margin, the party would naturally assume that Patels have abandoned the party. The elected representatives of OBCs would only further interests of their communities relegating the interests of Patels to the bottom of the list. Over a period of time, the gap between Patels and BJP will increase while OBCs will move closer to the party. As of now, if BJP wins Gujarat, they will be favourites for next elections too. As Shankersinh Vaghela said, BJP was at its weakest position and all Congress did was strengthen it.

Maybe few leaders of the Patidar movement gain in the short term but the community as a whole stands out to lose in the long term by moving away from BJP at this juncture. Had they moved away from BJP without organizing any movement, it would have been considered as a regular ‘anti-incumbency’ move. However, if the community moves away now, it only creates two vote blocks of OBCs and Patels fighting one another, Making the state of Gujarat becoming another Uttar Pradesh, where politics is played of, for and by castes and castes alone. 

Patels demanding reservations, including Hardik Patel may have overestimated their ‘power’ much like leaders of Muslim community who considered themselves king makers in UP politics. The fallacy of getting included in the reservation quota is an insignificant notion when faced with losing the existing political clout and business clout that was derived from the political power. Not only Patels but any community that craves for reservations or political clout by claiming ‘exclusivity’ would only become alienated from the society over time.

Reservations are only a temporary solution for the communities that are at the bottom echelon of the society. Understanding this, even Ambedkar capped reservations for ten years, which was continuously extended by politicians only to milk the exploited sections further. In fact, extending EBC quota for Patels would greatly help them as only the poor amongst them would get benefited. If it is a general reservation, already rich Patels may use it to progress further thereby widening inequality within the community.

I only wish the famous business sense of Patels prevails over the pedestrian thinking being propagated by leaders demanding reservations. Only Patels can save Patels from becoming a socially, Politically and Economically Backward Community.