It may sound strange, but it’s true. Contrary to the popular dictum ‘ek myaan mein do talwar nahi rah sakti’ (two of a trade seldom agrees), Patels and Kshtriyas — the two dominant castes in Gujarat — have come together to ensure defeat of Gujarat BJP President Jitu Vaghani, who is fighting a tough battle against Dilipsinh Gohil of the Congress from Bhavnagar (West) constituency.
Two traditional rivals Nitinbhai Ghelani and Kuldeepsinh Gohil have joined hands and decided to support Gohil.
The two communities had clashed in 1983 at Mangarh village in Bhavnagar district. A group of Patidars killed three Kshatriyas and then about a dozen Patidars were killed in retaliation. Those were one of the deadliest clashes that took place in the district.
This division among the two castes had given birth to a new political equation of KHAM (Khshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim). Congress’ Madhavsinh Solanki consolidated the votes of these communities in his party’s favour in 1985 that led the Congress win 148 seats in the state assembly.
As a result, the Patidars threw their weight behind the BJP and revived the saffron party in the next election as a result of counter polarisation. It helped the party in not only ruling Gujarat but also getting a foothold in other states as well.
But it appears that the two communities have forgotten the past and are united more than ever. “The incident took place 34 years ago, much before our birth. It’s always better to move forward and together confront the common enemy,” Ghelani told Newsclick.
Asked who the common enemy is and why, he replied, “Of course, he is Vaghani. He has grabbed land of local Rajputs and those who opposed him were sent behind bars.”
There is still a land dispute between Vaghani, Bhavnagar (east) sitting MLA and local Karadiya Rajputs.
Ghelani, a resident of Budhel village in Bhavnagar, says “Vaghani is a notorious land grabber. One such dispute is still going on between the village head of Budhel and Vaghani. When he opposed, Vaghani got action initiated against him using his might that has angered locals. He had to face protests in his own constituency.”
The seven assembly constituencies of Bhavnagar district have around 16.26 lakh voters. The largest caste group in Bhavnagar is the Koli Patels, an OBC community with nearly 3.91 lakh voters. With 1.61 lakh voters, Patidars form the second largest caste group, followed by non-Rajput Kshatriyas with 1.05 lakh voters. Karadiya Rajputs, the community that head earlier expressed displeasure with Vaghani, has 45,000 voters.
Patidars, Kshatriyas and Karadiya Rajputs together form 3.11 lakh voters, nearly as much as Koli voters, who are considered to be BJP voters.
Though the BJP claims that its support base is intact and the party president will register victory with huge margin, the situation on ground is clearly different. Perhaps, that is why PM Modi had to address two rallies, and Amit Shah one more, in the constituency.