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Gujarat election results: The new govt can’t afford to overlook the marginalised anymore

It was Hardik Patel who cast the first stone in mid-2015, mobilising his Patidar (Patel) community, seeking reservation for them. In his speeches, he assiduously tried to ensure that his supporters vote against the BJP.

analysis Updated: Dec 19, 2017 08:25 IST
Gujarat election results,Gujarat poll results,Gujarat elections
PAAS convener Hardik Patel in Bhavnagar on October 29.(PTI File Photo)

The 2017 Gujarat assembly elections has been a special one. For the first time, the state saw the young triumvirate of Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mewani, taking on the BJP, riding on the discontent and alienation of the marginalised classes. In the run up to the elections, the BJP tried to break them but the trio only emerged more ambitious and aggressive. The Congress cleverly managed to rope in Alpesh Thakor and piggy back on the other two. Together, they believed that their political mobilisation was sufficient for change. But that was not the case.

In the run-up to the elections, the BJP focused on “top down” political mobilisation, while the opposition tried “bottom up” political mobilisation by working on social and economic cleavages. The underlying reasons for such angst in voters is not difficult to seek: Along with the demonetisation and ill-informed GST implementation, the state’s social indicators ---- Gujarat is at the 11th position in the human development index; there an increase in sexual harassment cases against women; the state’s fractured public distribution system; and the mismatch between education and employment --- created a fertile ground for the opposition to come together.

It was Hardik Patel who cast the first stone in mid-2015, mobilising his Patidar (Patel) community, seeking reservation for them. In his speeches, he assiduously tried to ensure that his supporters vote against the BJP. The Patidars account for nearly 16% of the population, who traditionally remained with the BJP but due to Hardik’s leadership most of the Patidars (particularly farmers and urban unemployed) vowed to vote against the BJP.

Alpesh tried to mobilise OBCs, SCs and STs through his OSS Ekta Manch, raising the issue of reservation. By joining the Congress and supporting Hardik, he cleared doubts of him being a prop of the BJP. Of the three, he is the one with political experience.

This election is special because Gujarat seems to be on the cusp of a transformation. Whichever party forms the government in Gujarat, it cannot afford to ignore these rights of the marginalised in their policies.

Tanvir Aeijaz is associate professor, Ramjas College, University of Delhi

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Dec 19, 2017 07:46 IST