Congress prepares for Gujarat

Ahead of the Gujarat assembly polls in 2017, the Congress is planning to win over the Patel’s sensing the resourceful community is drifting away from the ruling BJP, which is trying hard to deal with internal rift.

According to Gurudas Kamat, AICC general secretary in charge of Gujarat, internal rift within the ruling BJP showed when the party recently replaced Anandiben Patel with Vijay Rupani as the chief minister.

Anandiben, he said, was removed as she could not effectively deal with the Patel protests demanding reservation in government jobs.

The change has angered a section of Patels who had been supporting the BJP for the past two decades, he said.

“The way the Gujarat government crushed the Patel movement demanding reservation in the past has sent shock waves among the community,” Kamat told Business Standard.

Kamat said the firing on the protestors in which 11 persons were killed and over 100 arrested did not go down well with the Patels who had hit the streets demanding reservation.

Sensing opportunity, Kamat led a group of district level Patel community leaders and took them to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi last week.

While the local leaders discussed the road ahead for the party in the state, Kamat further deliberates on the issue with Rahul on Saturday.

“There is opportunity for the Congress in Gujarat after 20 years,” Kamat said, adding the “balance can tilt in our favour.”

Sources said the Congress which won the Panchayat polls in 24 districts has given a boost to the party workers who have been trying hard to upstage the BJP.

The win in rural areas has strengthened the Congress muscle which had slackened during the three term rule of former chief minister Narendra Modi.

Kamat said Modi as Prime Minister has failed to address the concerns of the Gujaratis, particularly the Patels, in the past two years. This, coupled with the internal rift in the state BJP, can benefit the Congress, he said.

Congress insiders who are closely monitoring the political situation in Gujarat said that the Patels at present are divided in three groups—those who are young and support the likes of Hardik Patel (who became the face of the movement last year) but are kind of directionless. The seniors fall in the second category and they have expectations from the Congress but want space within the party and tickets for the assembly poll in bargain. The third category still supports the BJP and their numbers may further dwindle.

The challenge, said the sources, is for the Congress to stay united if its wants a reversal of fortunes in Gujarat.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel