Mansukh Mandaviya and Purshottam Rupala, both from the Patidar community, were elevated as ministers in the union cabinet in the recent cabinet reshuffle.
In an unanticipated move, the BJP chose Bhupendra Patel, a Kadva Patidar, as CM of Gujarat.
Here's all you need to know about Patidars and their role in Gujarat politics.
In an unanticipated move, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) chose Bhupendra Patel, a Kadva Patidar, for the post of Gujarat Chief Minister. A moderate Patidar face, Patel is not only on the board of several community organisations like Sardar Dham and Vishwa Umiya Foundation, but also is closely associated with Dada Bhagwan Foundation, a spiritual organisation with a large following in the state.
Kadva and Leuva Patidars
The Patidar community, with 13 per cent of Gujarat's voter population, commands electoral significance. Numbers show that Patidars can influence election results in more than 70 out of 182 assembly constituencies in Gujarat.
The community was an ardent supporter of the Congress party until the late 1970s. However, in the 1980s, the Congress shifted focus to the famous KHAM alliance (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim), and the Patels shifted allegiance to the BJP. Today, around one-fourth of BJP's vote share in the state can be contributed to them; and one-third of the BJP MLAs are Patels.
The Patidars claim to be descendants of Sri Rama's sons Lava and Kusha. The folk tales in the region record that the former were cursed by their mother Sita to become cultivators, after which the Patidars migrated from Ayodhya to Gujarat.
Leuva Patidars are reportedly influential in the Saurashtra region, while Kadva Patidars are influential in the north Gujarat region. Both the sects of the Patidar community follow separate social customs and are known not to get along with each other.
However, in the recent past, there have been meetings between the leaders of the two communities to present a united front, as the community aims to consolidate its position in politics and government jobs.
In February this year, leaders of two Patidar sects met ahead of Gujarat local body polls. The meeting was reportedly the first-ever attempt by the two trusts to come together to discuss the political, social, and educational progress of the Patidar community.
BJP's outreach to Patidars
The Patidar community has put up a strong agitation in the last six years for the OBC status, and more political voice. Ahead of the assembly election of 2022, the community has started demanding top roles for Patidar leaders, including the post of chief minister.
In June this year, social leaders of the community met at Khodaldham temple, the primary place of worship of Leuva Patels located in Kagvad near Rajkot city in the Saurashtra region, primarily aiming at bringing together the Leuva and the Kadva Patidars.
"After Keshubhai Patel (former BJP chief minister of Gujarat), the Patidar community lost its dominance in the state. This meeting was held to discuss how to regain the political influence for our community in the state," Naresh Patel, chairman of Khodaldham Trust, had said.
In 2017 assembly elections that came two years after a massive Patidar agitation led by Hardik Patel in the state saw a decline in BJP's vote share, with the party losing 13 seats to Congress. Unlike their 2012 victory, where BJP secured 115 seats, it bagged 99 seats in 2017. Many experts believe that it was the Patidar vote that helped Congress do better.
Hardik, also a Kadva Patidar, has since become a Congress leader and actively campaigning against BJP. Another concern for BJP is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), whose workers are reportedly carrying out aggressive work in north Gujarat and Saurashtra. AAP's stellar show in the Surat Municipal Corporation election earlier this year is a testimony to this.
In this scenario, BJP can ill-afford the Patidar community for granted.
In the recent union cabinet expansion, the party picked seven leaders from Gujarat. Ministers of State (MoS) prior to the reshuffle, Mansukh Mandaviya and Purshottam Rupala, both from the Patidar community, were elevated as ministers in the union cabinet.
Despite a certain level of dissatisfaction and fear of political marginalisation visible in the Patidar community, the hold of BJP on Patidars has proven resilient. In 2017, BJP managed to win 15 of the 16 constituencies in Surat district, the epicentre of protests against the Modi government's Goods and Services Tax (GST) and many of the traders - Patidars - had been turning out in large numbers to show support for Hardik Patel.
The party also gained significant ground in local body polls last year. It won 31 district panchayats, nearly 180 of 260 taluka panchayats and all municipal corporations. It seems that Union Minister Mandaviya's description of the relationship between the party and the community as that of "an umbilical cord and navel" holds.