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

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

60 ex-civil servants seek release of CAG reports on Rafale, demonetisation before 2019 polls

Counterview Desk
As many as 60 retired civil servants have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to expedite the release of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports on demonetisation and the Rafale deal. The letter, signed mainly by former Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Service officers, regrets that the status of the audit is "unclear”. According to them, “An impression is gaining ground that CAG is deliberately delaying its audit reports on demonetisation and Rafale deal till after the May 2019 elections so as not to embarrass the present government”.