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With 48 seats, the Saurashtra region holds the key to power in Gujarat; Close match on cards

The Saurashtra region of Gujarat, which represents 48 of the total 182 Assembly seats in the state with a significant population of Patidar and Other Backward Class (OBC), has the potential to tilt the power game in favor of or against the ruling BJP or the opposition congress at next month’s elections.

In the 2017 Assembly polls, Congress had won 28 seats in this region, up 15 in the previous election and limiting the Bharatiya Janata Party’s number of victories to 99. Political observers wrote the impressive show of the great old party in the region to the 2015 Patidar Community quota agitation that targeted the BJP government.

But improving the numbers, or at least keeping them intact in next month’s Assembly polls, would be a challenge for Congress because unlike the uproar of reservations, this time there’s no issue that would serve as an “emotional ground to unite”. In addition, the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may also pose a hurdle, observers say.

The ruling BJP, which only won 19 seats in the region in the 2017 elections, up from 30 in 2012, is also working to regain its lost ground by swindling the MLAs from Congress.

There are 11 districts in this region – Surendranagar, Morbi, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Devbhumi Dwarka, Porbandar, Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli, Bhavnagar and Botad. In the 2017 General Assembly, the BJP had not opened an account in three of these districts – Morbi, Gir Somnath and Amreli.

It is important for the Congress, which has been in power in Gujarat for more than two decades, that it continues its action in Saurashtra in 2017 to regain lost ground in the state. But this won’t be easy given the 2015 Patidar quota agitation that united Patidars against the ruling BJP this time around, political observers said.

In addition, Hardik Patel, the most prominent Patidar agitation leader who had joined Congress in 2019 and was named the working president, cut ties with the party earlier this year and joined the BJP that even banned him from the Viramgam this time. got a seat.

The AAP, which is taking part in all 182 seats in Gujarat for the first time, could be a bummer for Congress as the younger generation of the Patidar community backs the Arvind Kejriwal-led outfit, experts say.

At the same time, the BJP is seen to make up for any lack of support from the Patidar community with the OBC, another large community in the region, which is mainly scattered along the coastal strip and accounts for nearly 40 percent of its seats, they said. .

“From what appears at first glance in terms of seat allocation, the BJP has increased the number of OBC candidates it has fielded this time around in the region. If Patidars suffers a loss, it hopes to make up for it with the support of OBCs,” political analyst Dilip Gohil said.

He said the Patidars from Saurashtra, especially young voters working in Surat and influenced by the AAP, are likely to stay away from both the BJP and Congress.

In this way, Congress will be hurt more than the BJP, he said.

“With uncertainty about how this community will behave in next month’s elections, Congress will also have to count on the support of a sizable population of Koli and other members of the OBC community scattered along the state’s coastal stretch,” he said. sociologist Gaurang Jani.

“The Congress’ good performance in the Saurashtra region was due to the patidar quota agitation that took place before the 2017 parliamentary elections. However, five years later, the community has no emotional ground to unite,” he said.

Since the region’s poor performance in 2017, the ruling BJP has made concerted efforts to regain its lost ground by poaching congressional MLAs, some of whom are heavyweights influential in the region and in their communities.

As seen in the BJP’s ticket allocation in the region, the party appears to be relying on Congressional MLAs and new faces to pull in votes, the observers said.

Of the 20 Congressional MLAs who defected to the BJP over the course of five years after winning the 2017 elections, half were from Assembly constituencies in the Saurashtra region.

They include Soma Patel (Limbdi Seat), Parsotam Sabariya (Dhrangadhra), Brijesh Merja (Morbi), Kunvarji Bavaliya (Jasdan), Vallabh Dharaviya (Jamnagar Rural), Jawahar Chavda (Manavadar), Harshad Ribadiya (Visavadar), Bhagvan Barad ( Talala), JV Kakadiya (Dhari) and Pravin Maru (Gadhada).

According to the BJP’s first list of 160 candidates released Thursday (Nov. 10), a majority of those Congressional MLAs who won the midterm elections after resigning from Congress have been drafted by the ruling party.

At the same time, the party has publicized new faces by refusing to run for about a dozen of its incumbent MLAs, including former Prime Minister Vijay Rupani, senior leader RC Faldu, among others.

Congress traditionally had a support base in these coastal seats with a strong OBC base.

“There are 147 OBC communities in Gujarat. The coastal areas will be vital in deciding the fate of Congress. They (OBCs) have a significant population but they are not united as a group unlike Patidar, Brahmin and Rajputs. “BJP remains on weaker ground in these areas. The poaching of Talala MLA, an OBC leader from a coastal town, shows that BJP is trying to create a network of supporters in the region,” Jani said.

Elections in Gujarat will take place on December 1 and 5 and the vote counting will take place on December 8.

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