'The BJP's target could be the Kolis, Thakors and other numerically strong OBC communities to negate the shift of the Patel vote bank.'
Parag Dave reports.
With the Congress aggressively wooing the Patel vote bank, Gujarat's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is likely to focus on winning over the Other Backward Classes ahead of next month's election in the state.
The party will increase the number of tickets given to OBCs from "about 40" to "maximum" in a bid to win their vote, party insiders say.
The election for the 182-member Gujarat assembly will be held over two phases on December 9 and 14.
"The focus is on winning over the OBC communities in the state," a BJP leader says.
The Patel community, which was a staunch supporter of the BJP, is up in arms against the state government over its quota demand.
The OBCs have been given 27 per cent reservation in Gujarat.
The BJP has rejected the demand that the Patels be included in the OBCs list and tried to pacify the community by offering reservation for the economically backward among the upper castes.
The Patel population is around 13 per cent.
OBCs, under which 146 castes are included, account for nearly 35 per cent of the population.
The main demand of the Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti has been the inclusion of his caste in the OBC list.
"We take all the castes along with us," says BJP spokesperson Jagdish Bhavsar. "This is part of our social engineering."
BJP President Amit A Shah had hit out at the Congress for stalling the OBC Commission Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
The Gujarat election, Shah had said, will be fought on the issues of completion of the Narmada dam and the welfare of OBCs and the poor.
The BJP's political move is obvious, says political analyst Achyut Yagnik, as the party is likely to face erosion of part of its Patel vote bank.
"The main castes included in the OBCs are pastoral communities, fishermen communities, small farmers or landless labourers. Traditionally, they were Congress supporters," Yagnik explains.
In recent years, he adds, the BJP has tried to make inroads in these communities.
"Their (the BJP's) target could be the Kolis, Thakors and other numerically strong OBC communities to negate the shift of the Patel vote bank," he says.
But Yagnik believes the Patidars will not entirely tilt towards the Congress.
The Patidars, he says, have been supporting the BJP since 1985 and will not move en masse towards the Congress.
"It is possible," he says, "that two members of a family can vote for the BJP while two others will vote for the Congress."