Monday, Dec 05, 2022
×
Outlook.com
×

Gujarat Elections: Will Debutant Hardik Patel Be Able To Win From His Home Turf Viramgam?

Gujarat Elections: Will Debutant Hardik Patel Be Able To Win From His Home Turf Viramgam?

For Hardik Patel, this election will determine his position in state politics. When he was the 'working president' of the Congress party, he used to attack BJP leaders, and now he has been awarded a party ticket from BJP.

Hardik Patel resigned from Congress in May 2022
Hardik Patel resigned from Congress in May 2022 PTI

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded 29-year-old firebrand leader Hardik Patel from Viramgam constituency in the Ahmedabad district. The face of the Patidar reservation movement in Gujarat, Hardik Patel’s induction to contest his maiden Assembly election has made this constituency very interesting. However, it doesn’t seem to be a cinch for him.

The anti-incumbency factor

To begin with, Patel’s contest is with Congress MLA Lakhabhai Bharwad, who defeated BJP’s Tejashree Patel in 2017. Interestingly, Tejashree served as MLA from 2012 to 2017 also on a Congress ticket and again contested on a BJP ticket in 2017.

For the last 10 years, Viramgam has been ruled by Congress, and is facing several problems like poor roads, health, and education. Though Congress has significant anti-incumbency in the constituency, it is somewhat being balanced out by the anti-incumbency that BJP is facing in the state and Viramgam municipality. But election in this town in Ahmedabad district also depends on several other factors. 

Diverse voter base

First is the composition of several communities. Thakor (OBC) constitutes around 65,000 electors, while 50,000 voters are from the Patidar community. 35,000 votes are of the Dalit community, while 20,000 are Muslims. There is a significant number of Karadiya (OBC Rajput), Koli, Bharwad, and Rabari communities too. All of these communities will play a crucial role to decide where the wind will blow in this election.

Interestingly, despite having a significant backing from the Patidar population, Bharwad’s victory shows how challenging this seat is for Hardik Patel. In addition, there is significant resistance against him within his party and his community. Some are sniffing opportunism in his joining BJP. Thus, his credibility in representing the community has been challenged.

A multipolar contest

When he was the “working president” of the Congress party, he used to attack BJP leaders, and now he has been awarded a party ticket from BJP. This made several leaders of the BJP unhappy, as the party did not give a chance to several contenders in the constituency including Tejashree Patel. Tejashree also holds clout in the Viramgam.

Though the contest in Viramgam is between Congress and BJP, Aam Aadmi Party too may play an important role. AAP has fielded Amarsinh Thakor. Since the Thakor community holds a numerical majority in the constituency, it may play a role.

A known Dalit activist from Viramgam, Kirit Rathod is also in the fray and is contesting as an independent candidate. A lot will depend on the caste arithmetic of the seat as various candidates from all caste groups are in the election field.

Hardik Patel's new avatar

For Hardik Patel, this election will determine his position in state politics. His entry into BJP did not go down well with many, and therefore, the stakes for him are high.  

Moreover, his switch to BJP was also a departure from the position he took when he entered politics–he was talking about unemployment, poverty, and communalism. He maintained his firebrand image until it slowly started vanishing when he was the working president of Congress for two years. He joined BJP in June 2022.

In fact, Hardik Patel along with Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani became the face of the anti- BJP campaign in Gujarat to drive electoral dividend out of the anti-incumbency against BJP in the 2017 assembly election. This somewhat pushed BJP towards an uncomfortable stage, as it successfully garnered 77 seats for Congress.

However, the troika represented different interests with less space for common ground except for defeating BJP and establishing themselves in state politics. Thus, some political observers were sensing egress sooner or later and so it happened when Hardik and Alpesh joined BJP.

Now Hardik Patel is talking about issues like love-Jihad, Ram Temple – all of which he opposed till he was in Congress. Also, he once criticised BJP for its communal brand of politics, saying “everyone knows, BJP does politics of caste and religion.” It will be interesting to see how voters perceive his new avatar. 

Viramgam constituency in Ahmedabad comprises Viramgam, Mandal, and Detroj talukas. This seat will go to the polls in the second phase of the election on December 5.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement