New Delhi, Mar 31 : The Patidar politics is warming up in Gujarat. The Congress is banking immensely on Patidar votes and given the Congress performance in 2017 December polls; the BJP may face tough challenges in at least half-a-dozen Lok Sabha seats in Saurashtra region.
According to BJP sources - the electoral challenges remain despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi's unquestionable popularity and the organisational strength of party chief Amit Shah.
In the Saurashtra-Kutch region, out of 54 assembly seats, the BJP had lost 30 to the Congress in December 2017 and thus the saffron party's tally was restricted to 99.
The challenges for BJP is both ways - one that it lost assembly seats and also that the party government allegedly did not help people during 2016 floods leaving people anguished.
There was agrarian distress in the region too.
"The Lok Sabha elections would see intense electoral contest in Junagadh, Surendranagar and Amreli. We are trying to rework the electoral strategies," a source told UNI.
But, the BJP leaders feel when it comes to election for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even the Patidars' anguish will be brushed aside. And it has been cooled down to an extent.
Moreover, the BJP hopes the disgruntlement of the 2015 Patidar agitation has been diluted.
But, there could be challenges nevertheless also in seats like Anand, Banaskantha and Patan in north Gujarat.
In terms of electoral management, the BJP feels the Gujarat High Court order declining the stay to the 'conviction' verdict against Hardik Patel, who was the face of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti and now cannot contest election, would leave Congress workers demoralised.
This is an advantage for the BJP.
"Despite the bravado, Hardik Patel factor is not working in favour of Congress. The court had found him guilty and now he may move Supreme Court seeking permission to contest polls. But the fact of the matter is he stands exposed and in more than one instance, local people have openly held protest against him and also heckled him," the source said.
The BJP feels the perceived anguish of Patidars in some crucial seats and important assembly segments would be countered well by the effective handling of the OBC (Other Backward Classes) communities.
Lately four Congress MLAs Kuvarji Bavaliya, Jawahar Chavda, Parsottam Sabariya and Vallabhbhai Dharaviya who defected to the BJP camp are from OBC and also from the politically crucial Saurashtra region.
The BJP poll strategists say the caste equations and 'redrawing of graph' will work in crucial parliamentary seats such as Jamnagar, Rajkot, Amreli, Surendranagar and even Porbandar.
"The agrarian Saurashtra region has overwhelming presence of Patels (or Patidars). The Koli community too is important and they account for about 20 percent of votes. The region has been with the BJP for long, but in 2017, Congress won 28 seats. We have to make up this gap," the source said.
The BJP leadership both in the state and at the Centre are aware of ground situation and has thus replaced sitting MP Devji Fatepara by a new face Mahendra Mujpara.
A respected medico Dr Munjapara belongs to Chuvaliya Koli (Thakor) community and heads Surendranagar district Chunvaliya Koli Yuva Samaj and is also a trustee of Shri Samast Chunvaliya Thakor Koli Velnath Pragati Mandal.
The party has, however, reposed faith in Deepsinh Rathod in Sabarkantha and Naran Kachadiya in Amreli.
Mr Rathod had defeated Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela, who is now in NCP.
The BJP has lately tried to win over Ahirs as Congress MLA Jawahar Chavda, an influential Ahir leader, resigned from the assembly and joined the BJP. The Ahir community has sizeable population in at least three Lok Sabha seats in the region.
In 2014, the saffron outfit has won all 26 seats in Prime Minister's home state. (UNI)