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Can KHAM counter Hindutva

KHAM -- the Khashatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim grouping -- and a horde of local issues seem to be Congress' answer to Hindutva.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2002 12:58 IST

It's a golden opportunity for the BJP to test its much-touted Hindutva card in a state it has always seen as a saffron laboratory. It's also a perfect occasion for Congress to prove what it preaches, that Hindutva can't sell among commoners.

And both the parties are on the job. While BJP-RSS is gradually raising the pitch of Hindutva, increasingly adding national and global colours to it, the Congress seems to be going more and more local.

KHAM -- the Khashatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim grouping -- and a horde of local developmental issues seem to be the Congress answer to Hindutva.

Vaghela seems to actively working on reviving the KHAM theory, originally propounded and used largely successfully by OBC leader and former Congress Chief Minister Madhavsinh Solanki.

Adivasis and Dalits make up 15% and 7.5% of the total voters while Muslims count another 12.5% in the state. OBCs account for 45% of the state's electorate. Kshatriyas comprise 20% of the population and they have traditionally supported Congress.

The KHAM formula has been at the core of Congress election strategy in Gujarat for more than a decade. But its influence among these sections has been under threat ever since the BJP tried to mobilise the tribal people and Dalits to participate in the 1992 Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

However, despite the Hindutva surge, Vaghela commands good influence over OBCs as well as Khashatriyas. He had effectively mobilised OBC support for BJP when he was with the party. Madavsinh Solanki could also win for Vaghela the support of a big chunk of OBCs.

Congress will also be banking on Muslims and backward classes, who had turned up in large numbers to greet Vaghela when he took over as state Congress chief. Muslim enthusiasm was not without a reason -- the state did not witness even a single communal incident during Vaghela's one-and-a-half years in power.

Besides KHAM, the ex-RSS stalwart Vaghela has also set his sights on southern Gujarat and Saurashtra -- regions where post-Godhra violence had little impact. Observers say that barring in some urban centres, there seems to be apparently no polarisation in other parts, particularly in rural Gujarat. Several parts of the State such as Kutch, Saurashtra, south Gujarat and parts of western Gujarat, remained peaceful.

Hence, in these places, survival issues relating to drought, employment and water shortage are likely to influence voters.