On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Gujarat to inaugurate, among other projects, the KD Parvadiya hospital, a multi-speciality facility built by a Patidar group, at Atkot village in Rajkot district.
This is yet another outreach effort by Modi to woo the Patidar community that felt alienated ahead the 2017 Assembly elections. Of the 17 events that Modi addressed in his home state since March, six were organised by groups with strong links to the Patidar community.
The BJP leadership is doing everything it can, including bringing in a ‘Patel Chief Minister’ and a new ministry last year, to win back the Patidars who were somewhat disenchanted before the 2017 elections following the quota agitation led by Hardik Patel.
The Patidar community holds a significant influence over the electoral politics of Gujarat. They form around 12 per cent of the total over 6 crore population in the state. There are many Assembly constituencies where around 15 per cent population belongs to the Patidar community and could directly influence the electoral outcome. The community is also considered an effective fund manager in electoral politics.
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While the Congress gained from Patidar anger in 2017, the community seemed to have backed the AAP in the 2021 local body elections.
Another key Patidar leader, Rajkot-based businessman Naresh Patel, chairman of the Shree Khodaldham Trust, has announced plans to join politics and has been in conversation with the Congress, though nothing concrete has emerged. It is in this backdrop that the PM’s efforts to engage constantly with the community assumes significance.
Modi had on April 15, virtually inaugurated K K Patel Super Speciality hospital in Bhuj, which was also built by a Patidar organisation, Shri Kutch Leuva Patel Education & Medical Trust. KD Parvadiya Hospital, to be inaugurated Saturday, has been constructed by Patel Seva Samaj, Atkot, a Patidar charitable trust.
On April 29, Modi virtually addressed Gujarat Patidar Business Summit, 2022, organised by Sardardham, a Patidar organisation. This year, Modi decided to virtually address the summit’s third edition for the first time in Surat. In an apparent reference to the 2015 Patidar quota agitation, Modi had then said: “There are some boys in your area, who come out against us, raising flags… they would not even know how you spent your days in darkness… tell them… about what kind of days you have seen and from where we came…”
According to a senior BJP leader, “For our party, ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ is not just a slogan but a strategy. We cannot just appease one community, it will go against us electorally.” Another leader describes the Patidars as the “backbone” of the BJP.
Leading Congress Patidar leader Paresh Dhanani said the Patidars will not fall for Modi’s attempts to “deceive” them.