AHMEDABAD: Will the chief of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), Hardik Patel, prove to be another Keshubhai Patel? Keshubhai, the veteran BJP leader, quit the party and launched the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) during the 2012 assembly elections and cornered a significant share of votes from Patels who were disenchanted with the BJP.
In the 2012 assembly polls, 3.63% of total votes cast was secured by the GPP. These votes could easily have gone to the opposition Congress, but the GPP drew these votes and helped the BJP retain some seats in Patidar hotbeds in the state, especially Saurashtra. The GPP could win only two seats, but dented the Congress's prospects on a dozen-odd seats.
The ultimatum given by Hardik to the Congress over the OBC quota has put the party in a fix. With OBC leader Alpesh Thakor strongly opposing the inclusion of Patidars in the OBC list, it appears impossible for the Congress to give Patidars the quota assurance. In such a situation, if Hardik drifts towards a third party, most probably the NCP, the Congress's poll prospects will be damaged, giving the BJP an advantage. This would be a repetition of the GPP slicing Patel votes from the Congress tally.
"Former CM Keshubhai Patel committed the same mistake by creating the third option and diverting anti-BJP Patidar votes against the BJP but not in favour of the Congress. The BJP has been using this vote-division strategy in all elections," Shukla said.