Skip to main content

Not Patidar anger, but rural distress drove Saurashtra voters against BJP, as farmers "rejected" Hindutva rhetoric

Christophe Jaffrelot
By Our Representative
The Gujarat elections may be over, but the dilemma whether “angry” Patidar community – forming 12% of Gujarat – voted against the BJP remains strong.Young Patidar leader Hardik Patel, in a state of disbelief, says, this happened because the Electronic Voting Machines were tampered with, insisting, had it been a free and fair polls, the BJP’s tally couldn’t be more than 80-82, others do not seem to agree instead of 99 in a house of 182.
The dilemma is particularly widespread because Patidars – though Gujarat’s most occupationally diversified community, which, even as having rural roots, has moved in large numbers to the urban areas – showed up in large numbers in their pre-poll rallies led by Hardik, influenced by issues nagging them such as unemployment, Goods and Services Tax (GST), and demonetization.
One of the most acclaimed political scientists and South Asia specialist Christophe Jaffrelot, a research director at CERI, Sciences Po (a French social sciences institute in Paris), who is also professor at the King’s College India Institute, London, thinks that the “identity politics” ultimately made Patidars and other middle classes to vote the for the BJP.
Jaffrelot says, “Probably till the last two or three weeks – till Modi jumped in – merchants and traders of Surat were ready to vote against the BJP or abstain… Modi stormed Gujarat and articulated the traditional Gujarati version of Hindu nationalist rhetoric.”
The top scholar adds, Modi “claimed that he is the son of the soil while Rahul Gandhi was an outsider who could not speak the language and Manmohan Singh the interlocutor of Pakistanis.” The results show that “such things and Gujarati asmita (pride) in particular are still working.”
Indeed, the figures show that, of the 77 seats the Congress could win, it got just four seats of the 36 in the four major cities – all in Ahmedabad, getting a big zero in the rest of the three, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot. Even in Surat’s Patidar-dominated Choryasi, the BJP won with a whopping margin of over 40,000 votes.
In rural areas, things were, no doubt, different. But even here, insists farmers’ leader Sagar Rabari, who led a 3,500-long motorbike yatra across Gujarat ahead of the elections, “Patidars in the rural areas voted against the BJP not because of the Hardik Patel factor, but because of the rural distress that nagged them”.
Sagar Rabari
In an incisive analysis, Rabari – who heads Khedut Samaj Gujarat (KSG), which has led several successful battles forcing the state government to come on its knees – says, the degree of rural distress differed region-wise – high in Saurashtra-Kutch, medium in North Gujarat, and not much in South and Central Gujarat.
Thus, says Rabari, lack of availability of water for irrigation to farmers for irrigation, despite 22 years of BJP rule, played a “major role” in voters’ anger against the saffron party in rural Saurashtra.
“Saurashtra farmers are still dependent on scarce rainfall”, Rabari says, adding, “No other source of water for irrigation in a big is still available for the region. The situation got accentuated as the farmers did not get remunerative price for their produce, failed to get the insurance money for crop failure, and suffered because of demonetization.”
Insisting that as a result of all this “many farmers were forced to commit suicide in the region”, Rabari says, this was one region where the effort by the saffron party to use “caste and religion failed to succeed in influencing the electorate.”
“In North Gujarat”, says Rabari, Narmada waters was available to some extent for irrigation, as a result of which farming did not remain as unremunerative as in Saurashtra, and farmers “saved” their crop, despite the high costs of groundwater irrigation. “Clearly, in North Gujarat, the ruling BJP did suffer, but not as much as in Saurashtra”, he underlines.
By sharp contrast, says Rabari, in Central and South Gujarat, “farmers do not have to depend on the vagaries of nature for irrigation, water is available in huge quantity, and farmers are able to get remunerative price for their cash crops, such as tobacco, banana, sugarcane, etc., thanks to a strong cooperative movement.”
Noting that the farmers in this region are not “dependent on government for irrigation”, Rabari says, here they failed to “understand the real face of the BJP’s anti-farmer policies”, which include the “draconian pro-industry” Gujarat land acquisition Act.

Comments

TRENDING

Political consensus? Celebrations, with over 5,000 plus post-vaccine deaths in India

By Rosamma Thomas*  As India fully vaccinated nearly 20% of its population and celebrated the “milestone” of administering one billion (100 crore) Covid-19 vaccine doses, it was time to remember those who died shortly after vaccination . By October 20, 2021 Twitter handle C400T, tracking deaths reported to have occurred after receiving the Covid-19 shot in India, updated the 5,134th death.

Is sacrilege charge against Punjab Dalits any different from Pak blasphemy cases?

Lakhbir Singh, his wife By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  There is no doubt that Sikhism actually was a revolt against the Brahmanical system and superstition. Guru Granth Saheb is perhaps the only Holy Book which contains matters from different religions as well as those of various Sufi saints, including Kabir, Ravidas, Baba Farid and others. The aim of Sikhism was to create an egalitarian society, and, definitely, Punjab that way is far better than many other States in India, where violence against Dalits is rampant.

Billion vaccine doses? Devil is in details: 70% haven't got 2nd jab; numbers jacked up

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  India has reached the one billion Covid-19 vaccinations milestone. It is indeed a great news and a big salute to the less paid ordinary health-workers in interiors of India for this feat. The government wants all of India's 944 million adults to get vaccinated this year. Around three-quarters of adults in the country of 1.3 billion people have had one shot and around 30 percent are fully vaccinated, the government says.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Uttarakhand, Kerala disaster due to policies favouring India's developmental mafia

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Two of India’s most beautiful regions where thousands of people go to watch and feel the wonders of nature are suffering because of the extremely disastrous rains and floods. The pain that the rains brought to Kerala and Uttarakhand is a warning to all of us. It's nature’s warning to us to mend our ways.

Religious mobs replicate blasphemy laws, 'threatening' liberty in a free country

Nihangs, Lakhbir Singh By Ajit Singh*   A Dalit man, Lakhbir Singh, was mercilessly beaten up and lynched to death near farmers’ protest site in the State of Haryana allegedly by Nihang Sikhs. It was alleged that he committed blasphemy by desecrating the Holy Book Guru Granth Sahib.

How are Tripura Muslims responsible for attacks in Bangladesh?: 'Concerned' citizens

Counterview Desk  Calling it a “retaliation” of Bangladesh violence, several “concerned citizens”*, including Magsaysay award winning social activist and academic Sandeep Pandey and PV Rajagopal of the Sarvodaya Samaj, have said that the recent attacks on Muslim community in different areas of Tripura is a the reflection of “growing trend of using violence against another community.”

Shabana Azmi joins Pak physicist Hoodbhoy to condemn B'desh anti-minority violence

By Our Representative  Several well-known South Asian activists and public figures of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Maldives have expressed “deep distress” by the spate of violence and killings in Bangladesh on the occasion of Durga Puja and Vijayadashami. “Attacks on minorities are a sign of injustice and a matter of shame for any society and bring a bad name to the Government”, they said in a joint statement.