Gujarat: Political history (1945- )

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The Times of India, Aug 30 2015

Protests by the privileged? Gujarat has a long history

Economics is the common thread that runs through agitations in the state over the last 75 years, finds Amrita Shah Gujarat has a vivid recent history of large, anarchic agitations. Observers are often surprised to hear this, pointing to the state's association with Gandhi and its reputation as a highly developed region with a strong entrepreneurial drive as reasons why this should not be so. Those familiar with the state's peculiarities, however, suggest that Gujarat's relationship with violence in fact stems from these particular characteristics rather than existing despite them. It has been proposed, for instance, that Gandhi's legacy of agitation has contributed to present-day violence in the state. Historian Howard Spodek describes the “two parallel springs of mobilization and institutionalization“ which he believes Gandhi successfully controlled, and speculates that the future could go either way: that new organizations could succeed Gandhi to restore a balance or that the local and the national arena could decline becoming accustomed to deepening levels of violence.

Those who expect a pragmatic, business minded society to be above turbulence are similarly mistaken because economics, far from quelling, has invariably been a key motivating feature for mass violence in the state. A survey of prominent agitations over the last 75 years suggests a common thread.The vigorous participation of Gujaratis in the Quit India movement of 1942, for instance, while it owed much to the intense nationalistic fervor prevailing at the time, was also partly enabled by fears that the British, following a scorched earth policy would destroy local mills to prevent them from falling into the hands of their World War II rivals, the Japanese.

The movement for a separate state in the 1950s was waged on the rhetoric of language and regional pride but was also underpinned by a feeling of neglect by successive Congress ministries. According to Achyut Yagnik and Suchitra Sheth's The Shaping of Modern Gujarat, the absence of any major project on the area's rivers in the First Five Year Plan coupled with the perception that resources were being diverted to Marathispeaking areas culminated in the Mahagujarat movement.

In 1974 rising mess bills in an engineering college in Ahmedabad sparked outrage among students, snowballing into a statewide stir known as the Navnirman movement, an agitation in which even housewives joined in by beating thalis at a prearranged hour. Anxiety over shrinking job opportunities due to the expansion of caste-based reservations led to ugly riots in 1981 and in 1985.

These iconic mass agitations have not involved the poor and the working class but have been led by members of the upper and middle castes and classes, with students playing a pivotal role. In the 1985 anti-reservation riots even children, encouraged by their parents, boycotted school.

Middle class leadership brought a managerial flair to mass agitations often marked by a high level of organization, a clever use of communication technology and marketing gimmicks.This is not the place to explore the links between an emerging middle class solidarity and the growing popularity of the Hindutva movement but it can be said that mass agitations tended to articulate the grievances of and sought to expand economic opportunities for those in the middle and upper reaches of society , sometimes resisting the advancement of those below. For instance, the 1981 and 1985 anti-reservation riots (a precursor one could say to the current fracas) saw attacks by assertive Patels selectively on upwardly mobile sections of the lower castes.

Mass agitations have also enabled dominant groups to bypass inconvenient politics. The unseating of chief minister Chimanbhai Patel in 1974 provided an early taste of power. Madhavsinh Solanki, a backward caste chief minister who won a resounding majority a decade later with a formula that united underprivileged sections of society including Harijans, Adivasis and Muslims, was forced out of office within months by massive protracted violence.

The latter's history of truculence is surprising more so in light of political scientist Nikita Sud's claim that Gujarat's development trajectory , which ensured the rise of agrarian capitalists and rapid urbanization after 1960, has been skewed in favour of dominant castes and classes as has the contemporary economic liberalization process.

In many ways then, the current agitation by the influential Patel community is in keeping with the state's past experience of violent protest by the privileged. But while the agitation may have its origins in the local, and Gujarat-based observers have provided various cogent explanations for the sudden discontent, there is something about the scale and deliberate theatricality of the event that points to a less definable intent. A charismatic leader, surging crowds, speeches in Hindu rather than Gujarati, the dramatic destruction of public property , seem to be elements of a spectacle aimed at creating a mood as much as or rather than stating a demand. The atmospherics need to be watched.

Caste combinations

2014 and 2016: Socio-regional profile of Chief Ministers

See graphic, ‘Socio-regional profile of Chief Minister in Gujarat, 2014 and 2016’

Socio-regional profile of Chief Minister in Gujarat, 2014 and 2016; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, August 8, 2016

KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim)

BJP warns Patels, says Cong trying to short change them | Oct 25 2017 |The Times of India (Delhi)

The `KHAM formula', helped Congress bag 149 of the state's 182 seats in 1985.

The brainchild of the then CM Madhavsinh Solanki, KHAM -a combination of Kshatriyas (OBCs included), Harijans, Adivasis and Muslims -proved a successful experiment to forge an unbeatable alliance that enveloped nearly 70% of Gujarat's population. It excluded Patels and other upper castes who deserted Congress en masse. That didn't matter though, as Solanki went on to set an electoral record that stands to date. The BJP has long banked upon support from the upper castes.

Significantly , KHAM also led to Congress' downfall as it was not able to keep the combination intact since it had been tried for the first time.In 1990, the Chimanbhai Patel-led Janata Dal weaned away most Patel votes and formed a coalition government with BJP. It fell apart mid-way after the Babri demolition, and Congress was happy to help Chimanbhai and remain in power as a secular coalition. Since 1995, BJP has won all the five assembly elections, although they had to lose power once due to the Shankersinh Vaghela-led rebellion that Congress again cashed in on.

BJP's ascent and ability to stay at the top was rooted in the deep inroads it made by doggedly working among the Ksha triyas, OBCs, Dalits and Adivasis under the `Hindutva' umbrella to break up `KHAM'.All this, while keeping its Patel and upper caste vote bank intact. Modi himself made conscious efforts to prop up a fresh leadership from among KHAM constituents.

Assembly Elections, in brief

Gujarat political history India Today


The A to Z of the issues of the Assembly elections

Parth Shastri, December 17, 2017: The Times of India


AURANGZEB RAJ | PM Modi gave the example of Aiyar's comparison of dynastic rule and wished the Congress the best of luck for it.

AMETHI | It found a way into Amit Shah's speech in two references — Congress couldn't win seat there in the recent UP elections; and people of Amethi come to Gujarat seeking jobs.


BLUETOOTH | The hardware put Congress on the alert when a number of EVMs allegedly showed 'ECO' code in nearby devices.

BLUE WHALE | The game ending in suicide was mentioned by the PM in his speech in which he claimed that Dec 18 results would be the last day of the Congress.


CHAI | Rahul Gandhi savoured a cuppa at Dakor while Modi thundered that he would sell tea but not the country.


DEMONETIZATION | 'Notebandi', along with GST, were heavily criticized by the Congress in hubs like Surat and Morbi while Modi said at rallies that demonetization and the tax had hit the Congress hard.


E EXIT POLL | Hours after the second phase of voting was over, exit poll results predicted a victory for the BJP. It was trending on #1 on Twitter in India on Dec 14


F FATWA | PM Modi termed an advice to the Christians from an archbishop of Gandhinagar, 'fatwa', and gave several examples of how their 'rashtra prem' knew no region or religion

FIXED PAY | The fixed pay system was severely criticised by many supporters of the Congress, including a professor and ASHA workers.


GABBAR SINGH TAX| Rahul Gandhi equated GST with the psychopathic villain of the film, Sholay, in each of his rallies. Modi countered it with Grand Stupid Thought.


HARD WORK | Modi said that he one can do wonders with hard work and achieve what people from 'Harvard' couldn't.

HAPPINESS INDEX | Congress included it in its election manifesto as Rahul Gandhi talked about 'pyaar ka politics' during the campaign.


INDIRA GANDHI | The former Prime Minister found mention in Modi's election speech at Morbi when Modi said how she had covered her nose with a handkerchief when he and others were cleaning up the city after Machchu tragedy.


JANEUDHARI | Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala described Rahul Gandhi as 'Janeudhari Brahmin' after a row over his religion after Gandhi's visit to Somnath temple.


KARADIYA RAJPUT | The community started agitation and threatened that it would ensure that the BJP was defeated if the state BJP chief was not shown door after a tiff. BJP leadership later brokered a peace.


LOAN WAIVER | Rahul Gandhi repeated his promise that within 10 days of the formation of the Congress government in the state, the party will start the process of waiving farmer loans.


MAGICIAN | PM Modi was called 'magician' by Rahul Gandhi who made money disappear from Gujarat. BJP's plan to bring in magicians from other states to engage voters was also ridiculed by the Congress.

MUSHROOM | OBC leader Alpesh Thakor alleged that eating Taiwanese mushrooms was the secret behind Modi's 'tomato-red' cheeks.


NEECH | Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar raked up a controversy when he called Modi 'neech kism ka aadmi'. Modi made emotional appeals to Gujarat voters to avenge through ballot this insult of a son of Gujarat.

NARMADA DAM | BJP claimed full credit for completing the Narmada dam project whose construction had taken 30 years. PM Modi claimed that former PM Manmohan Singh did not give him time to discuss the dam's height


OCKHI | The cyclone temporarily stole the thunder from the high-pitched election campaign but dissipated without affecting election dates.


PAKISTAN | Modi accused the neighbouring country of meddling in Gujarat elections.

POTATO | The humble tuber came into limelight when Rahul Gandhi emulated Modi's promise of converting potato into gold and turned it into a meme

PAPPU | EC banned the use of the word to describe Rahul Gandhi.


Q QUOTA | Patidars fight for a quota had an enormous impact on the state polls. Congress has promised a formula which the BJP has dismissed as constitutionally invalid.


RAM MANDIR | BJP seized on the issue after Congress leader Kapil Sibal appeared in Supreme Court and requested it to defer the hearing till after 2019 LS polls.

RAFALE | The deal for fighter jets was one of the two major allegations of corruption against the NDA government. It found mention in each of Rahul Gandhi's speeches.


SEA PLANE | PM Modi travelled to Dharoi dam from Sabarmati riverfront in this aircraft amid much publicity and fanfare

SEXTAPES | Avalanche of sex-clips of PAAS leader Hardik Patel and his aides went viral on social media ahead of the elections.

SAAS-BAHU SAGA | Rangeshwari Chauhan, estranged wife of BJP MP Prabhatsinh Chauhan, made the BJP's fight tough in Kalol constituency when the MP's daughter-in-law Suman, older than Rangeshwari, was given the BJP ticket


TEMPLE RUN | Both Rahul Gandhi and Modi engaged in it by visiting every major temple in the state


UDYOGPATI MITRA | Rahul Gandhi's oftused jibe at Modi's 5-10 'industrialist friends' who had allegedly benefited most out of the 'Gujarat model'.


VIKAS | After PAAS and Congress came up with 'vikas had gone crazy', the BJP embraced it as its poll plank and came out with a string of videos and slogans asserting the state's development VVPAT | Supreme Court turned down the Congress plea to count VVPAT slips in Gujarat elections.


WOMEN CANDIDATES | The number of women fielded by the two parties was again small — Congress fielded 10 women candidates while the BJP gave ticket to 12. This despite talk of 33% reservation for women.


X FACTOR | After development, caste emerged as the primary variable while choosing candidates. OBCs and Patidars established themselves as communities that cannot ignored.


YOUTH POLITICS/ YOUNG TURKS | Three young leaders — Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani — infused fresh blood in the state's politics. Earlier, both the major parties primarily relied on old hands.

Y CATEGORY | Hardik Patel initially refused Y category protection saying that it might be misused for snooping.


ZERO VOTER TURNOUT | A couple of villages in the state like Gajadi near Morbi boycotted the election over local issues and did not cast a single vote in protest.


BJP wins 47/ 75municipalities; Congress 16

Kapil Dave, February 19,2018: The Times of India

February 20, 2018: The Times of India


BJP wins 47 municipalities out of 75 as the Congress wins 16.

In 2013, the Congress had won a mere eight municipalities.

Both the parties claim to have support in 10 municipalities.

Continuing its winning run in the 2017 assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday grabbed power in 47 municipalities out of 75 in the civic elections. However, the Congress also received traction and increased its number, winning 16. In 2013, it had won a mere eight municipalities. In 2013 also, the BJP had won 47 out 75 municipalities.

BJP has retained the same number of seats — 47 out of 75 — in Gujarat municipal polls as it had won five years back in 2013, with the party winning 27 of the 28 seats in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home town Vadnagar in Mehsana district. Congress has improved its tally from eight municipalities to 16.

The BJP also won from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home Vadnagar municipality.

Both the parties claim to have support in 10 municipalities where there is no clear mandate and independents are in higher numbers.

State election commissioner Varesh Sinha said, “Out of 75 municipalities, BJP has won 47, Congress 16, NCP one and BSP one. There is no clear mandate in six municipalities, while independents have the edge in four. Of total 2,060 municipal councillor seats, BJP won 1,167, Congress 630, BSP 15, NCP 28, and other parties won 18. Independents won 202 seats.”

State election commissioner Varesh Sinha said that, “Out of 75 municipalities, BJP has won 47, Congress has won 16, while both NCP and BSP have won from 1 (municipality). There is no clear mandate in six municipalities while in four municipalities, independents have an edge."

“Out of 2060 seats, BJP won 1167 seats, Congress won 630 seats, BSP won 15, NCP won 28 seats, other parties won 18 seats while independents won 202 seats," added Sinha.

Voting for the 75 municipalities was held last Saturday and the results were declared on Monday.

Both parties have reasons to rejoice and both claim that they will form the bodies in 10 municipalities where there is no clear mandate as there are many Independent winners.

Gujarat BJP was elated with the party’s performance in Vadnagar. “We have won 47 of 75 municipalities, which is almost the same performance as of 2013. But we have won municipalities in 41 assembly constituencies where Congress won in the December 2017 assembly elections. This shows that people have lost confidence in Congress within just two months,” Gujarat BJP chief Jitu Vaghani said.

‘Jai Hind’ instead of ‘Yes sir’ in schools

No ‘Yes sir’, say ‘Jai Hind’ or ‘Jai Bharat’ in school: Gujarat govt, January 1, 2019: The Times of India

From now on, school students across Gujarat, will say ‘Jai Hind’ or ‘Jai Bharat’ during roll call instead of ‘Yes sir’ or ‘Yes madam’. A circular to this effect has been issued by the state education department, making it mandatory for school students. A government resolution on the mandate was also released by the department.

Officials of the state education department said the move is aimed at promoting patriotism among students from an early age. “When I was a student, it was compulsory for me and other students to confirm attendance by saying Jai Hind/ Jai Bharat. The practice was later discontinued. We have taken a decision to resume the practice from Tuesday onwards,” said Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, state education minister.

“A student says yes sir/ yes madam at least 10,000 times during their schooling. If they replace this with Jai Hind/ Jay Bharat, it will harbour sentiments of patriotism among them,” he added.

The notification says, “District education officers (DEO) are supposed to ensure that the circular is strictly implemented across all the government, grant-in-aid and self-financed schools.”

During the recently held 64th national convention of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in Ahmedabad, the recipient of Professor Yashwantrai Kelkar Award, Sandeep Joshi, a schoolteacher based in Jhalor, Rajasthan, said, “We implemented this practice in our school as a pilot project. However, it later got extrapolated to being implemented across Rajasthan.”

Chudasama was also present at the ABVP convention, when Joshi shared this. When asked if the Rajasthan Model is being followed in Gujarat, he said, “There is no harm in adopting best practices in education that are implemented in other parts of the country".



Three of 18 encounters were fake

Dhananjay Mahapatra, January 12, 2019: The Times of India

The Gujarat government, which had vehemently opposed making public the Justice H S Bediheaded monitoring authority’s probe report on encounter killings between 2002 and 2007 when Narendra Modi was CM, will heave a sigh of relief as the report named no politician and termed only three of the 18 encounters during the period as fake.

In its 221-page final report, Justice Bedi said 15 of the 18 encounters appeared genuine and no action was required with regard to those. The monitoring authority found the encounters in the three remaining cases to be fake and recommended prosecution of nine police officers on murder charges.

Bedi panel’s finding comes as relief for BJP leadership

The finding comes as a respite to the BJP leadership, which has been dogged by allegations of “fake encounters” during Modi’s chief ministership.

However, in what could ensure the controversy keeps simmering, Justice Bedi’s report referred to a 2007 sting operation carried out by Tehelka relating to Sameer Khan’s killing in an encounter in 2002 and subsequent affidavits naming “some very senior functionaries of the state government, both political as well as administrative”.

“The persons so named are not before me in any proceedings in the light of the fact that my mandate is a limited one and is confined to the determination as to whether the 18 encounters, which have been referred to the monitoring authority and the special task force were stage-managed custodial killings or genuine encounters. In this view of the matter, I am not called upon to comment on all the allegations levelled by Sarfaraz Khan or on all the answers made by Tirth Raj (in the sting operation),” Justice Bedi said.

However, terming Sameer Khan’s killing in Ahmedabad to be a fake one, the monitoring authority recommended prosecution of inspectors K M Vaghela and T A Barot on murder charges.

There were two other cases in which Justice Bedi found the encounters to be fake. It found that Kasim Jaffer was killed on April 13, 2006, in a fake encounter. The former SC judge recommended prosecution of sub-inspector J M Bharwad and constable Ganeshbhai on murder charges. Justice Bedi also ordered payment of Rs 14 lakh compensation to Mariam Jaffer, widow of the deceased, and their five children.

The third fake encounter related to the killing of Haji Ismail on October 9, 2005, at a place under Umargram police station in Valsad district. The monitoring authority recommended prosecution of five police officers — inspector K G Erda, sub-inspectors L B Monpara, J M Yadav, S K Shah and Parag P Vyas, who shot and fatally injured Ismail — on murder charges.

The vehemence with which Gujarat government counsel Rajat Nair and senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, who appeared for the purported accused, had opposed the suggestion from a SC bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi to share Justice Bedi’s report with Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for petitioners Javed Akhtar and B G Verghese, gave the impression that they were apprehensive of “bigwigs” of Gujarat politics getting named by the monitoring authority. The SC had rejected the objection and given a copy to Bhushan.

Muslims in Gujarat elections

Muslim MPs and LS candidates


Himanshu Kaushik, Kapil Dave, (With inputs from Yagnesh Mehta), April 5, 2019: The Times of India

Muslim MPs and Lok Sabha candidates from Gujarat, 1962-2014
From: Himanshu Kaushik, Kapil Dave, (With inputs from Yagnesh Mehta), April 5, 2019: The Times of India

The last Muslim to make it to the Lok Sabha from Gujarat was Congress’s Ahmed Patel in 1984. In 1989, Patel lost the Bharuch seat to BJP’s Chandu Deshmukh by 1.15 lakh votes. Ever since, no Muslim has made it to the Lok Sabha from Gujarat. Muslims make up 9.5% of the state’s population.

In 1962, when the newly-formed Gujarat voted in its first Lok Sabha elections, only one Muslim candidate won, Johara Chavda, from Banaskantha.

In 1977, the state elected two Muslims, both from the Congress — Ahmed Patel from Bharuch and Ehsan Jafri from Ahmedabad — the greatest representation Muslims have seen from Gujarat ever.

The Bharuch Lok Sabha seat has the highest concentration of Muslim voters in Gujarat. Currently, of the 15.64 lakh voters in Bharuch, 22.2% are Muslims.

Since 1962, eight Muslim candidates have been fielded by a national party in Bharuch, all from the Congress, but only Ahmed Patel was able to win. He won three straight Lok Sabha elections from Bharuch, in 1977, 1982 and 1984.

"Muslims are not only socially but also politically marginalized in Gujarat. This was amplified after the 2002 riots," says Kiran Desai, a social scientist at the Centre for Social Studies (CSS). Desai was part of the team that worked on a report for CSS after the 1992 riots.

Since 1989, just seven Muslim candidates have been fielded in the Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat by a national party, all by the Congress.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, of the total 334 candidates in the fray in Gujarat, 67 (or 19.76%) were Muslims. That year the Congress fielded just one Muslim candidate, Maksud Mirza, from Navsari.

All the other 66 Muslim candidates fought as independents or for parties such as the Samajwadi Party (SP). In the 2014 elections, most Muslims in the fray contested from the Panchamahal, Kheda, Anand, Bharuch, Navsari, Sabarkantha, Jamnagar and Junagadh seats.

In 2009, Kaleem Abdul Latif Sheikh, a Lok Janshakti Party candidate (LJP) in Panchmahal led to the defeat of Congress candidate Shankersinh Vaghela.

Latif polled 23,615 votes while Vaghela lost by a mere 2,081 votes. The winner was the BJP’s Prabhatsinh Chauhan. BJP spokesman Bharat Pandya, said, "Our party considers winnability, representation from the local party cadre and the candidates own following in the area before allotting a ticket."

Congress spokesman Manish Doshi said, "Our party has three Muslim MLAs in the state assembly. Earlier too we have given Muslims tickets for Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat, but they did not win."

2017: Gujarat’s Muslims out of poll picture

Sagarika Ghose, Gujarat’s Muslims out of poll picture in elections 2017, December 8, 2017: The Times of India


After 2002, the community has turned inwards, focusing on education and trying to rebuild businesses

Gujarat’s Muslims are completely ghettoized across riot hit cities like Vadodara and Ahmedabad

Dr JS Bandukwala, former Physics professor at MS University, has always been the face of dignity in the face of immense personal suffering. He lost his home when it was attacked by mobs during the 2002 post Godhra riots, his long time neighbours slammed doors in his face, he was shunned by his university colleagues and made a victim of a witch-hunt. Yet Bandukwala is marked by a singular lack of bitterness and today runs a charitable educational trust for Muslim youth. While the 2002 riots were once a volatile issue in Gujarat polls, in this election the riots are a non-issue and Gujarat's ten percent Muslim community as a whole is invisible in the poll. "Muslims are isolated and have been made politically redundant," says Bandukwala, "but our irrelevance is not a bad thing. We are being left alone even though Modi fights elections best when he makes Muslims the target. Modi needs a Muslim target, but this time the Gujarati Muslims are lying low."

So have Gujarat's Muslims grown numbed by the attacks on them and do they not raise their voices anymore? "Muslims are keeping their cards close to their chest and keeping quiet," says businessman Zubair Gopalani. "We are teaching our community to turn away from hate, to love Hindus as our brothers and work for development."

After 2002, the community has turned inwards, focusing on education and trying to rebuild businesses. "We are keeping quiet, doing our work and being happy in our irrelevance," says businessman TA Siddiqi. "Neglect is good, all we ask is humko chain se jeene de." Feroze Ansari and Pervez Misarwalla are IT professionals who have started a group called Rising Indians to bring Muslims into the mainstream and train them in leadership skills. However they're hurt by government discrimination. "When we do public spirited works like provide water to traffic police in summer, the government does not send us certificates the way they do with Hindu bodies," says Ansari.

In the Muslim locality of Tandalja many complain about lack of infrastructure, schools and playgrounds. Recently 1800 hutments were demolished here. "The police still comes and picks up innocent Muslim youth on flimsy charges," says shop-owner Imran Patel.

Gujarat's Muslims are completely ghettoized across riot hit cities like Vadodara and Ahmedabad. Rich and poor cluster together in designated localities, the Disturbed Areas Act preventing Hindus or Muslims from buying property in each others' areas without the permission of the administration. Pointing to the fact that many private schools refuse to take "M class" students, Pervez Misarwalla of Rising Indians believes Muslims need to create their own schools and colleges. "Across UP and Maharashtra there are many Muslim institutions, but almost none in Gujarat." He adds that there are many Muslim IAS and IPS officers in Gujarat but they are sidelined and marginalized.

In the Muslim area of Tandalja, posh bungalows adjoin slum colonies, multi-storied buildings share walls with low cost housing. "My daughters get upset when they hear the bad language being spoken in slums next to us, but we have no place to move to," says Siddiqi. Yet many say things have changed for the better. "2002 was a blessing for Muslims in a way," says entrepreneur and educationist Saira Khan. "Muslims gave up on liquor trade and other such activities and turned squarely to education. Today for Gujarati Muslims its education, education, education. That's our focus."

How do Muslims feel when BJP leaders continue to target them in speeches? "We feel hurt," says Bandukwala, "but we are so used to it by now. In this election Muslims are keeping quiet and refusing to be provoked even when threatened." "We counsel our community not to act in rage, not to hit back, because this only inflames the situation," says Gopalani. Counters Imran, "But if they misbehave with my Muslim sister should I just sit back and take it?" Counsels Siddiqi. "Lets use the courts, use the police, Ek chup, sau balatali: One moment of silence can solve a lot of problems."

Interestingly, the Congress too has chosen to stay silent on any issue which might flare up a Hindu Muslim tangle. "The Congress talks of looking after our interests but in reality they are much too scared to raise their voice. It's now all about who gets the Hindu vote,' says engineering student Pervaiz Sadiq.

Only 2 Muslim MLAs were elected in the last assembly elections of 2012 and for decades a Gujarati Muslim has not been elected to Parliament. But Muslims here say they prefer a peaceful irrelevance, than a potentially conflictual struggle for political space. Gujarat's post 2002 ghettoisation is complete.

Growing irrelevance of Muslim vote

India's oldest mosque and growing irrelevance of Muslim vote in Gujarat, December 8, 2017: The Times of India

On the the eve of the first phase of voting in Gujarat, Election With Times travelled to what is believed to be the oldest mosque in India: the Barwada Juni Masjid in Ghogha in Bhavnagar. The mosque is said to have been built by Arab traders in the Prophet's time and is the only mosque whose mehrab points towards Jerusalem, as per the tradition in the Prophet's early years. In contrast, all the mosques built later point towards Mecca as per the Prophet's directions.

Election With Times: In this special episode from Juni Masjid, we discuss the growing irrelevance of the Muslim vote in Gujarat. Muslims constitute 9.67% of the Gujarat electorate and remain pivotal in 30 out of 182 assembly seats. However, like in UP, BJP is not fielding any Muslim candidate in the upcoming elections. On the other hand, Congress will field 6 Muslim candidates (1 less than in 2012).

The BJP did not acquiesce to the Minority Morcha's demand for Muslim candidates in six seats (Jamalpur-Khadia, Vejalpur, Vagra, Wankaner, Bhuj and Abdasa).

In fact, BJP has fielded only one Muslim candidate for assembly polls (in 1995) in Gujarat since 1980. Abdul Gani Kureshi contested as a BJP candidate from Vagra in 1995 and lost to Congress by 26,439 votes.

Yet, BJP fielded 325 Muslim candidates in 2010 panchayat and municipal polls: 245 of them won. BJP also fielded 450 Muslim candidates in 2015 panchayat and municipal polls.

Muslim politics in Gujarat has evolved in the last decade, with many Muslims also supporting BJP, but low Muslim representation relative to their population share in Gujarat's electoral politics continues to raise questions.

Parties’ performance


Kapil Dave & Himanshu Kaushik, Why BJP has extra homework in Guj, March 27, 2019: The Times of India

The performance of the BJP, Congress and others in Gujarat elections, 2012-17
From: Kapil Dave & Himanshu Kaushik, Why BJP has extra homework in Guj, March 27, 2019: The Times of India

Saurashtra, North Seen As Weak Points

Riding the Modi wave, BJP swept all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat in the 2014 general elections. Five years down the line, much water has flown down the Sabarmati. A resurgent Congress has made significant gains in the 2017 assembly polls and after a series of poaching and counter-poaching moves, both sides seem to be girding up for a tough battle ahead.

In 2017, Congress put up its best performance of the last three decades, clinching 77 seats. An analysis shows the Congress polled more votes – between 14,000 and 1.68 lakh – than BJP in eight Lok Sabha seats: Banaskantha, Patan, Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Surendranagar, Junagadh, Amreli and Anand. Simply put, the votes polled by Congress candidates in assembly segments that make up these eight Lok Sabha seats is higher than the votes polled by BJP.

In Porbandar, where the NCP’s Kandhal Jadeja was elected from the Kutiyana assembly seat, the equation changes if there is an alliance between Congress and NCP. The Congress candidate had polled around 11,000 votes against Jadeja. If the NCP’s votes are added to the Congress tally, Porbandar becomes the ninth Lok Sabha seat where the Congress-NCP is leading, according to the 2017 voting data.

Evidently, BJP faces a major challenge in Saurashtra and North Gujarat, as seven of these eight seats are in these regions.

Among these eight seats, BJP has renominated only two MPs, Naran Kachadiya in Amreli and Dee psinh Rathod in Sabarkantha. The party is yet to name its candidates for five seats, while it has already named a fresh candidate, Dr Mahendra Mujpara, in Surendranagar, preferring him over sitting MP Devji Fatepara.

Following the state polls, BJP seems to have done some serious introspection and set rolling a plan to reverse the damage. Months after their rout in Saurashtra, BJP pulled off a coup by winning over senior Congress leader and OBC strongman Kunvarji Bavaliya. The party made him cabinet minister, swearing him within four hours of joining the party.

His induction has given an impetus to BJP’s ‘Mission Kamalam’ to dismantle Congress by luring MLAs to cross over to the saffron party.

Three Congress MLAs joined BJP recently and at least half a dozen more are set to switch shortly. A year after it made inroads in the state, Congress now has a task on hand to stem the exodus.

BJP’s strategy is simple — poach Congress MLAs and leaders in regions where BJP is not on a strong footing. Early March, senior Congress MLA and influential Ahir leader Jawahar Chavda resigned from the assembly and joined BJP. The Ahir community has sizeable numbers in the four LS seats of Saurashtra. Chavda is also president of the Gujarat Ahir Samaj.

The party has also been trying to woo young OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, who can influence the Thakor community which is dominant in four seats in north Gujarat where BJP is weak. Thakor recently clarified that he is not quitting Congress.

Veteran Congressman and party treasurer Ahmed Patel has been entrusted with working out a strategy for the party to hold on to gains made in the 2017 assembly elections. State unit chief Amit Chavda is crying foul about the BJP poaching its MLAs and leaders, but maintains in the same breath that Congress will do well in the LS elections.

Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani says LS and assembly elections can’t be compared. “The people of Gujarat will vote for the magnetic leadership of Narendra Modi due to the performance of the Union government,” he said.

BJP will rely heavily on PM Modi’s charisma and the party has said a narrative will be built around development and the air strikes India carried out after the Pulwama attack.

With Modi presiding over two events of the Patidar community on March 4 and 5, where more than 5 lakh Patidars were in attendance, and the central legislation granding 10% quota to upper castes, BJP hopes the disgruntlement of the 2015 Patidar agitation too has been diluted.

Voting patterns

1990-2012: urban areas vote BJP

Himanshu Kaushik, Gujarat cities appear to be impregnable BJP fortresses, November 26, 2017: The Times of India

Seats in urban areas in Gujarat civic body polls, 1990-2012, party-wise
From: Himanshu Kaushik, Gujarat cities appear to be impregnable BJP fortresses, November 26, 2017: The Times of India

The ruling BJP has maintained a complete domination over urban seats in eight municipal corporation areas of Gujarat since 1990. While there were in all 28 such seats till 2007, post-delimitation these increased to 39 in the last elections in 2012 — when BJP won a whopping 35. The Congress won only four — two in Ahmedabad and one each in Jamnagar and Rajkot.

Even in 1990, when the party contested just 143 seats out of a total of 182 seats in the assembly, BJP won 18 seats. Congress slide in urban Gujarat in fact began in 1990, when it bagged just four seats — with seven seats going to Janata Dal. The best performance by Congress in the last six elections for the city vote was in 2007 when it managed six wins.

The increase in seats post-delimitation was due to growing urbanisation and expansion of boundaries of some of the municipal corporations — Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Gandhinagar.

There are reasons to believe that if BJP wins a majority in 2017, it will be because of wins in the eight big cities of Gujarat. BJP presently rules all eight municipal corporations.

In 2015, when civic body polls were held across Gujarat, BJP ceded ground to Congress in the zila and taluka panchayats, as also the municipalities, but gave its best ever performance in the municipal corporations. This, despite the violent Patidar agitation for quota having begun well and truly.

BJP spokesperson Yamal Vyas said, “Our party has a strong urban presence because we had a good workers base in cities since 1990.”

Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said, “We are raising urban issues but we need to focus more on booth management in cities in Gujarat. Even Rahul Gandhi has had a number of interactions with doctors, lawyers and businessmen.”

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