AHMEDABAD: With Gujarat going to polls later this year, all political parties are out to woo the powerful Patidar community. Both the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party are reaching out to influential leaders from the community.
After appointing Jagdish Thakor as its state unit president and tribal leader Sukhram Rathva as Leader of Opposition, the Congress has turned attention to Khodaldham (an important place of worship of Leuva Patels in Rajkot) head Naresh Patel and veteran Shankersinh Vaghela.
Thakor has claimed the Congress is in touch with Patel and “other like-minded leaders”. At an event on Wednesday, he also praised Vaghela’s social contribution to the state. AAP’s youth wing vice-president Yuvraj Sinh Jadeja also met Naresh Patel on Thursday, ostensibly to seek his support over various recruitment examination scandals.
Patel has already hinted that he will join politics at an appropriate time if the community “asks” him to do so. As a trustee of Khodaldham, he has lakhs of Patidars followers. Four Patidar MLAs from the Congress also met former leader of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti Alpesh Kathiriya on Wednesday and asked him to join the party. They believe his entry will strengthen the party base in Saurashtra and Patidar-dominated areas of Surat.
The Patidars, with 13% of Gujarat’s voter population, can influence poll results in more than 70 out of 182 assembly constituencies. The community was an ardent supporter of the Congress until 1970s. In the 1980s, as the Congress came up with KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim) formula, it shifted allegiance to the BJP.