Hardik Patel a wild card in run-up to Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections

first_imgDays after Congress president Rahul Gandhi promised a farm loan waiver to farmers of Madhya Pradesh, Hardik Patel, Patidar (Patel) leader from Gujarat, on Sunday announced a month-long yatra in the State where Assembly polls are to be held by the year-end. “I will start the yatra next month from Amarkantak, the place from where the Narmada river originates. This month-long journey, in two phases, will pass through about 100 Assembly seats of Bundelkhand, Mahakaushal and Malwa-Nimad regions of Madhya Pradesh,” Mr. Patel said during a media interaction in Indore.Since last Thursday, Mr. Patel has been on a five-day tour of the State under the banner of the Kisan Kranti Sena (KSS) that he heads.“We want to make the youth and farmers aware during this tour. We will not talk about parties or their candidates. But we will appeal to the voters to scrutinise the work of the sitting MLAs of their areas,” he added. Gujarat modelBut Mr. Patel’s presence has prompted many in political circles to question if the 25 year-old leader is doing a repeat of his Gujarat act: help the Congress break into the Patidar community of Madhya Pradesh who have traditionally supported and voted for the BJP.An estimated six million plus voters from the Patidar community are there in Madhya Pradesh and the bulk of them are in the Malwa region. “The Patel votebank is sizeable in places such as Mandsaur, Ratlam, Indore and anyone calling for scrutiny of the ruling government will help,” said a senior Congress leader.The Patels in MP, belonging to the Kurmi caste are part of the Other Backward Classes (OBC) and can be a determining factor in 30 of the 230 Assembly seats.Most important, support from the community provides the Congress an opportunity to counter Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s OBC poster boy image. To build its credentials among OBCs, during the Rajya Sabha elections in March, the Congress nominated Rajmani Patel, an associate of former Chief Minister Arjun Singh. But most believe the turning point in the Patidar community’s relationship with the ruling BJP was the 2017 farmers’ protest in Mandsaur as four of the six killed in police action were from the community. The Congress denies a hand in Mr. Patel’s visit. “This reflects the distress the farmers of Madhya Pradesh are facing. One has to see how this will evolves and plays out politically,” Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan said.(With PTI inputs)last_img

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