Adivasis turn saviour as Patidar support drops for BJP in Gujarat

While social media is agog with Rahul’s NavSarjan Yatra and how his team has trumped BJP in the field in which they are masters, opinion polls predict a win for party similar to 2012. While Axis predicts 120 seats, CSDS predicts 117 for BJP. Axis predicts BJP will maintain a vote share lead of 10%, CSDS sees it shrinking to 6%. Will Gujarat which catapulted Modi to national scene become his nemesis and start his downward graph or will it be an easy victory for BJP?

Both polls suggest a common theme which has not caught the attention of analysts

Both Axis and CSDS predict massive decline of Patidar support to BJP. This is not surprising considering Patels have been at odds with the govt. since long demanding reservations. Patel votes account for one-fifth of total vote share of BJP (approximately 10% out of 50% vote share of BJP). As per Axis-India Today survey, BJP is seen losing 43% support among Kadwa and 25% support among Leuva Patels. 

Even as per CSDS-ABP News survey, the lead of BJP over Patel votes is expected to decline from 65% in 2012 to 20% in 2017. BJP support is intact among upper caste and Other OBCs. BJP is also seen losing support among Kolis and OBC Kshatriyas, due to efforts of Congress to reconstitute its traditional KHAM support.  Party is also seen losing some of its Muslim support which is fairly natural given the current national political dynamics.


This results in a loss of 10%-11% vote share for BJP, thus eliminating its entire traditional lead over Congress. 

If BJP is losing support among most of its anchor voting segments where is it actually gaining and still managing to win the elections?

BJP is gaining significantly among ST voters (Adivasis) who have been traditional supporters of Congress. In 2007 and 2012 state elections, BJP won 14 and 15 seats respectively out of the 26 reserved for Scheduled Tribes.

BJP is leading with 18% among Adivasis as per CSDS while in 2012 Congress was leading with 14% among the community. This translates into a swing of 32% in favour of BJP. Among Dalits too, BJP has managed to close the gap with Congress despite the Una incident and Jignesh Mevani led protest. The lead of 42% of 2012 is expected to reduce to 8% as per CSDS. This better show among SCs and STs is compensating for the loss among Patidars and Kolis.

From these two segments, BJP is seen gaining 5%-6% vote share, thus leading Congress by 6% on an overall basis  as per CSDS.

This is the biggest story of 2017 Gujarat polls

Despite loss of anchor voting segments, BJP is seen winning as it has further expanded its base through social engineering. While Congress was busy rejuvenating KHAM and adding Patidars to make it KHAMP, BJP seems to have snatched ‘A’ from the alliance reducing it to KHMP. Since STs and Patidars represent similar percentage of the population, Congress vote share does not show a significant jump.

Among Dalits too, BJP has been able to make a dent and reduce Congress lead. This is in line with the national trend of Dalits considering BJP as an option after the decline of BSP. RSS has been silently doing a lot of work amongst Adivasis (Shishu Mandirs, hospitals etc) which seem to have helped BJP. 

If polls are true, then Congress here has failed to manage the contradictions in its ambitious alliance. STs are generally at odds with Patidars and Kshatriyas and they share a history of antagonism. The Adivasis have turned out to be the saviours for BJP as per both surveys.

While Congress has managed to make a dent in BJP camp, it seems it has not been able to keep its flock together hence losing the gains made through acquisitions. Congress needs to focus on its traditional vote base of STs and devise a strategy to keep their support intact. Else it will be difficult to dislodge BJP. A repeat of 2012 can’t be ruled out as of now…..

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