Many may call it nervousness on the part of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat. First it sought help from Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan to campaign in Gujarat––though his support was not taken during the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election. Now Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has spoken that the saffron party is going to win the election in the western Indian state.
Ironically, Paswan’s service was not utilized in Hindi-speaking UP where Dalits form 22 per cent of the state population. In contrast there are only seven per cent Dalit voters in Gujarat.
This was so in spite of the fact that the BJP has no Dalit leader of the stature of Mayawati in that state.
Not only that, Paswan had played second fiddle to the BJP bigwigs during the Lok Sabha (2014) and Assembly polls (2015) in his home state Bihar.
Now not only the LJP leader, but even his son and Jamui (Bihar) MP, Chirag Paswan, has been invited in Gujarat.
Analysts are of the view that the latest move exposes the BJP’s desperation in Gujarat, where Patidars, OBCs and Dalits under the leadership of Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani respectively are, in general, inclined towards the Congress.
The Congress party is likely to fully exploit this situation for its own ends.
On Nov 11 Ram Vilas Paswan had a meeting with BJP chief Amit Shah and later they campaigned in Dani Limda, an SC Reserved constituency in rural Ahmedabad. This seat is presently held by the BJP.
The LJP leader is likely to return to Gujarat again.
As if that was not enough Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday predicted a comfortable BJP victory. He said so in a Press conference in Patna though there were early reports that his party, JD(U), may, like in the past, contest election in a few seats of Gujarat alone.
But since the Election Commission is yet to decide on the claim of symbol (Arrow) between Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar factions of JD(U), it is not yet clear whether Nitish would really field candidates or not.
The lone JD(U) MLA in Gujarat is now with the Sharad faction.
Political observers are of the view that many in JD(U) hope that now that Ram Vilas Paswan has been invited, a similar invitation to Nitish Kumar cannot be totally ruled out as Kurmis and Patidars are somewhat similar. Many Kurmis also use Patel as their surnames and there is no dearth of school, colleges, hostels etc with Patel as their name.
Nitish has also been in support of reservation for Patidars in Gujarat. In UP he campaigned for his party separately in both 2012 and 2017 Assembly elections with Patel votes in the mind. But JD(U) failed miserably.