Ahmedabad: Chief Minister Narendra Modi has received a rude jolt just a few days before voting in Gujarat. One of Gujarat's most influential votebanks, the Leuva Patels, have hinted that they could vote against Modi and the BJP. Leuva Patels can influence results of 33 seats out of the 48 in Saurashtra and they have clearly indicated that they are with Keshubhai Patel who has launched the Gujarat Parivartan Party and is trying to oust the Modi government.
On the other hand, the BJP has claimed that the Leuva Patel vote will be in favour of Modi. According to Leuva Patel leader Naresh Patel the community has decided to go against Modi. When asked if Leuva Patels would go with Keshubhai Patel, he replied that the current situation suggests so the community is impressed with Keshubhai and his party. He added that his community was against Modi.
Naresh Patel's statements have created a flutter in the BJP because Leuva Patels constitute almost 23 per cent of the voters in Gujarat. The influence of Leuva Patels extends to 48 seats of Saurashtra and they can decide who wins in 33 constituency. It is clear that no party can win Saurashtra without the support of Leuva Patels.
Recently, Leuva Patel leaders met at Khodaldham, a famous pilgrimage centre, and decided that the community would vote in favour of only one party. As Keshubhai Patel belongs to the same community, so Leuva Patels first choice is most likely to be his Gujarat Parivartan Party.
The BJP was trying to lure the community but a comment by former Indian cricketer and Lok Sabha MP Navjot Singh Siddhu has antagonised the party. Siddhu mocked Keshubhai and even called him a spent bullet. Keshubhai retorted by making an emotional appeal, saying that if he was traitor then he should be stoned to death.
Sidhu's comments on Keshubhai are proving to be a huge embarrassment for the BJP as Leuva Patels have made it a matter of pride. The BJP is still hoping that the community would support the party. BJP leader Purushottam Rupala said that voters were not influenced by mere words. People would vote after seeing Modi's track record, development record and the character of the candidates, he said.
Gujarat politics has never seen such a bitter battle. Now Modi's biggest challenge is to wean away Leuva Patel's from his one-time mentor Keshubhai Patel and the outcome of this war will determine the political future of the Gujarat Chief Minister.