For two weeks now, Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel has been holding a daily convention of a sub-group of an OBC community with the aim of wooing smaller communities ahead of the state assembly elections.
He has so far organized the convention for more than a dozen sub-castes belonging to the OBC as the ruling party is apparently trying to create divisions within the OBC bloc which comprises more than 140 different communities belonging both to Hindus and Muslims and identified as socially and educationally. backward castes.
At the convention, community leaders congratulate the Chief Minister and pledge their support to the ruling party while the CM talked about the social welfare measures of the Modi government and how the central and state governments of the BJP have been working in tandem for the development and well-being of the different communities.
According to party insiders, the strategy is to attract smaller castes from the OBC bloc and win their support for the ruling party.
So far, such a convention has been held for communities like Darji (tailor), Mochi (shoemaker), barbers, blacksmiths, masons, carpenters and others who are not dominant in numbers but are evenly dispersed with a few thousand votes in each constituency. .
The party’s strategy is to bring them into its fold since the opposition party focuses on the dominant OBC castes like Thakors and Kolis, who are traditionally pro-Congress in Saurashtra, northern and central parts of the Gujarat.
The opposition Congress is betting on the support of Thakors since the President of the State Congress is Jagdish Thakor while several other senior Congress leaders like Bharatsinh Solanki or Baldevji Thakor are from the same community, which plays a decisive role in nearly 30 Assembly seats in the North and Central Regions of Gujarat.
On Tuesday, State Congress Speaker Jagdish Thakor held a lengthy meeting with Koli community leaders to solicit their support for the party. Like Thakors, the Kolis dominate over 20 seats in Saurashtra and a dozen seats in South Gujarat.
A decisive group
In Gujarat, OBCs make up over 50% of the population and are a politically decisive group. The OBC group in the state, made up of 146 communities belonging to both Hindus and Muslims, has become important because some communities like Chaudhary in northern Gujarat control dairy cooperatives or Ahirs and Karadia Rajputs, which have gone from agriculture to contractors, construction and transportation.
To corner the ruling party, state congress leaders demanded a caste census in the state and were very vocal about 27% quotas for OBCs in local panchayats and urban local bodies, to namely municipal corporations in large cities and municipalities in small towns.
“Why doesn’t the ruling party do justice to the OBC? Why the BJP is reluctant to conduct the caste census,” asks former Gujarat Congress Speaker Amit Chavda, also a prominent OBC leader.
In July this year, the government of Gujarat was forced to set up a commission to fix the reserves of OBC communities in elections to local bodies like municipalities and state panchayats, as per a court order. supreme.
The Commission was set up after leaders of opposition parties as well as OBC groups and even BJP OBC leaders had accused the ruling party of being negligent in enforcing the order of the Supreme Court.
Among those who criticized the ruling party for the delay in setting up a panel was Alpesh Thakor, a top leader of the Thakor community who defected from Congress to the BJP in 2019.
On more than one occasion, Mr. Thakor, who also leads a statewide OBC community organization, Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena, has demanded a caste census to determine the exact population of the various castes in the state. .
Recently, BJP and Congress leaders met separately with the panel called the “Dedicated Commission”, the BJP delegation urged it to give the largest possible reservation to OBCs in local polls, the opposition Congress l urged to take the quota level for 27%.
Under the Gujarat Panchayats Act, 10% of seats are reserved for OBC communities in gram panchayat elections.
“Since the reservation will be given on the basis of the population and the current social and economic situation of the OBCs, our first request was to have a census to know the population of the OBCs. According to our estimates, OBCs make up 52% of the state’s population,” Congress Leader Jagdish Thakor told reporters after meeting the panel in Gandhinagar.
“In this case, we have urged the Commission to increase the current quota from 10% to 27%. Even the budget should be allocated according to this new proportion,” Thakor added.