If there was one key region where BJP clearly outclassed rival Congress in elections, it was Central Gujarat. BJP not only added more votes than the Congress here but also gained two seats widening the lead over the Congress in the region from 20-18 in 2012 to 22-16. Central Gujarat contributes 40 seats to 182-member Assembly.While two seats went to independents this time, in 2012, NCP and an independent had shared a seat each. What helped BJP sharpen its edge was its continuous hold over urban areas and Patidar agitation-led polarisation of votes that made non-Patels vote for BJP.In constituencies in Vadodara city area likeVadodara City, Sayajiganj, Akota, Raopura and Manjalpur, Congress got 2,75,923 votes, almost 20.48% more than 2,29,011 votes in 2012. However, the gain was inadequate to breach the victory margin BJP had in previous election.While BJP held on to its bastion in the city, in the rest of the region, it accelerated its advance where its vote tally stood at 26,55,288, a rise of 16.98% over its 2012 votes of 22,69,773. On the contrary, Congress’ advance almost stagnated at 24,26,563, a meager rise of 8.13% over its 2012 tally of 22,44,025 votes. BJP widened its vote lead from 25,748 votes in 2012 to 2,28,725 votes in 2017. Net result was that BJP widened the seat gap from two to six.Across the 40 seats in the region, BJP’s votes rose by 15.38% while Congress’ votes rose by 9.28%. BJP wrested six seats from the rivals, followed by four by Congress and two by independents. “Kshatriyas have been Congress supporters but Kshatriya equation got disturbed as Congress supported Patidar agitation and Kshatriyas voted for BJP instead,” said Kailash Gadhvi, Congress spokesman in Gujarat.In reality, Patel agitation did not bring any Patel votes to Congress. This is because the agrarian crisis in the region is not so severe in central Gujarat compared to the rest of the state. The region has a fertile land with irrigation water available through canals. Dairy too has diversified the rural income giving cushion to the farmers and Patels here have migrated in large numbers to the USA and UK giving them the financial backup. In fact, non-resident Gujarati Patels are the most vocal supporters of the BJP in general and PM Narendra Modi in particular.Lack of local leadership on the part of Congress also failed to hold on to its traditional vote banks. Retirement of former state and Union minister Dinsha Patel deprived the party of an influential Patidar leader with only Siddarth Patel, son of former CM Chimanbhai Patel in fray. Patel lost to his BJP rival Shailesh Raval by a margin of 2,839 votes.BJP also strengthened its position in the region after cooperative dairy leader Ramsinh Parmar defected to BJP during recent Rajya Sabha polls, increasing BJP’s influence over dairy farmers. While Parmar lost from Thasra constituency, Congress gained in terms of seats.MAJER TAKEWAYSCentral Gujarat is the only region where BJP gained in votes and seats. BJP’s votes rose by 15%, it added two seats. Patidar factor polarised non-Patel votes in favour of BJP. Congress’s votes rose by 9.28%, it lost two seats. Congress failed to make inroads in Vadodara city. Outside Vadodara, it was an even contest between BJP and Congress.
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