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

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Church in India 'seems to have lost' moral compass of unequivocal support to the poor

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
In 2017, Pope Francis dedicated a special day, to be observed by the Universal Church, every year, as the ‘World Day of the Poor’. This year it will be observed on November 17 on the theme ‘The hope of the poor shall not perish for ever’; in a message for the day Pope Francis says:

Visually challenged lady seeks appointment with Gujarat CM, is 'unofficially' detained

By Pankti Jog*
It was a usual noon of November 10. I got a phone call on our Right to Information (RTI) helpline No 9924085000 from Ranjanben of Khambhat, narrating her “disgraceful” experience after she had requested for an appointment with Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani. She wanted to meet Rupani, on tour of the Khambhat area in Central Gujarat as part of his Janvikas Jumbesh (Campaign for Development).

There may have been Buddhist stupa at Babri site during Gupta period: Archeologist

By Rajiv Shah
A top-notch archeologist, Prof Supriya Varma, who served as an observer during the excavation of the Babri Masjid site in early 2000s along with another archeologist, Jaya Menon, has controversially stated that not only was there "no temple under the Babri Masjid”, if one goes “beyond” the 12th century to 4th to 6th century, i.e. the Gupta period, “there seems to be a Buddhist stupa.”

Gujarat refusal to observe Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day 'discriminatory'

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government decision not to celebrate the National Education Day on !monday has gone controversial. Civil society organizations have particularly wondered whether the state government is shying away from the occasion, especially against the backdrop of "deteriorating" level of education in Gujarat.

VHP doesn't represent all Hindus, Sunni Waqf Board all Muslims: NAPM on SC ruling

Counterview Desk
India's top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), even as describing the Supreme Court's Ayodhya judgement unjust, has said, it is an "assault on the secular fabric of the Constitution". In a statement signed by top social workers and activists, NAPM said, "The judgement conveys an impression to Muslims that, despite being equal citizens of the country, their rights are not equal before the law."

Violent 'Ajodhya' campaign in 1840s after British captured Kabul, destroyed Jama Masjid

Counterview Desk  Irfan Ahmad, professor at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany, and author of “Islamism and Democracy in India” (Princeton University Press, 2009), short-listed for the 2011 International Convention of Asian Scholars Book Prize for the best study in Social Sciences, in his "initial thoughts" on the Supreme Court judgment on the Babri-Jam Janmaboomi dispute has said, while order was “lawful”, it was also “awful.”