As results came in on Thursday, Keshubhai Patel’s home wore a deserted look. The assumption that the Patel satrap would restrict the BJP’s tally by damaging its prospects in Saurashtra proved wrong. The damage was limited to eight of 54 seats.
Comprising seven districts, Saurashtra did not mount as difficult a challenge for chief minister Narendra Modi and the BJP as political pundits had predicted. Despite the Keshubhai Patel factor, Saurashtra voted in 35 BJP legislators, down only eight from the 2007 tally.
The newly-floated Gujarat Parivartan Party which won only two seats, led to the consolidation of votes among the non-Leuva Patels. “As the talk of Leuva-Patelism grew, other castes and communities decided to prevent the return of the Patel-domination. They seem to have voted for Modi,” said Kirit Ganatra, managing editor of Akila newspaper.
In the end, drought-affected Saurashtra, also reeling under the lack of water and power, did not dent the BJP’s voteshare, even though the GPP was being helped by a section of the RSS.
Keshubhai Patel’s calculation erred on several counts. He did not offer an alternative vision of development to the Saurashtra electorate who have not experienced Modi’s development model. Despite the water security, the voters appear to have swung towards Modi’s promise of ‘more development.”
Secondly, he relied too much on certain people like Leuva Patel community leader Naresh Patel and former Modi confidante Gordhan Zadaphiya. Naresh Patel, local Congress leaders said, was “an opportunist”, while Zadaphiya, who was implicated in the 2002 communal riots, could not even manage to win from Gondal.
Thirdly, Modi sealed his campaign with the emotive issue of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “giving away” Sir Creek to Pakistan. “We cannot lose any part to Pakistan,” said BJP’s Babubhai Bokhiriya who defeated Congress state president Arjun Modhwadia to wrest Porbandar. Keshubhai Patel, once Modi’s mentor, could not spoil the party for Modi this time.