Have things turned significantly in Gujarat, considered a free run for the BJP?

The third phase of polling for India’s 18th Lok Sabha could have serious surprises in store for an aggressive and cocksure Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from Gujarat, once considered a free run for prime minister Narendra Modi; as voting figures for the 26 parliamentary seats in the western Indian state -- reviled for its politics of exclusion both on the economic and socio-religious front (“Gujarat Model”)-- poured in late on Tuesday, communities and activists who had strived for change are cautiously hopeful; the turn in voter’s mood has been perceptible over the past six weeks. A minimum of four seats and upwards of eight for INDIA is the ground level prediction by Sabrangindia

Will the opposition Indian National Congress whose state campaign has been managed by Shaktisinh Gohil, a weathered Congressman see a surprise positive for the INDIA alliance and the grand old party? An irate, angry and organised electorate consisting of farmers, agricultural labourers and other toiling communities have rallied around the aggressive posturing of the Rajput-Kshatriya mobilization that has come out aggressively against the ruling party.

Two months ago, any close observer to the campaign in the state –a BJP faithful since 1995—would not have, could not have suggested any dent in the narrative. But not too much appears to have gone well for the saffron juggernaut even when a clean, one day poll for this state was deftly organized by a compliant Election Commission (ECI). By the evening of polling, the trends pt out by the ECI showed this.

The New Indian Express on Tuesday morning suggested a loss of as many as seven seats while trends from the ground suggest that the figure could go upwards to cross even ten. The independent assessment of Sabrangindia suggests a minimum of four and as many as eight to the INDIA alliance.

But more than the figures it’s the quiet queues of all depressed communities, lining up from 7.30 a.m. and ensuring a swift polling without hesitation or demur that tells the tale. This hoarding captured by a senior activist from the streets of Ahmedabad, late on the nigh of May 6, the night before voptes were case that says it all:

A huge illuminated hoarding Achhe din kaha Hai?( where are the good days ?)put up at the Helmet Char Rastha, Drive in Road Ahmedabad says it ALL! A very strategic location frequented by thousands! The hoarding faces the all- important constituency of Gandhinagar, which is considered a bastion of the ruling regime!

An alert citizenry, an active presence of Congress volunteers in booths in most areas were testimony to what had transpired over past weeks. The vocal anger by Gujarat’s socially visible and strong Rajput/Kshatriya community who measures about 6 % average among voters but in some concentrated areas accounts for 10 per cent voters was dismissed by many as too insignificant given the overwhelming counter-balance of Patels (at least the Leuva Patels) and others with the BJP. It was former chief minister, Purushottam Rupala’s insensitive and rather crude remarks on Rajput’s “making compromising alliances with the British” that set of the anger but it was surely not this public faux pas (alone) that tipped public anger?  Visuals and videos of vocal speeches from Rajput women and men, young and old, from the statewide caste associations emboldened several other depressed sections, Adivasis, Muslims to rally to their meetings. Sabrtangindia is in possession of two dozen social media videos of such meetings from across the state. A close constituency level watch over the past weeks reveals that this vocal protest is all that Gujarat’s multiple other social groupings needed, to unshackle the climate of fear and rally around against the insensitive and anti-people policies of the past decade. Jobs, prices of onions, duplicity of the state and union government on agrarian policies and employment, these became the talked of issues in the state. Tuesday, May 7 will mark a historical change in the fate of the people of this state, a senior activist (name withheld) told Sabrangindia recalling the indomitable KHAM alliance (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Minorities) spearheaded by Madavsingh Solanki in 1985.

BJP agents using pens with party symbols, threatening voters at polling booths: Gujarat Congress to Election Commission

The confident body language of the Gujarat State Congress was visible at the end of voting on Tuesday filed complaints with the Election Commission of India citing the violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by polling agents of the BJP and polling officers, who were found using pens bearing symbols of the saffron party during voting in the Lok Sabha election.

The Congress party and its leaders also alleged that BJP workers were allegedly “threatening” voters and “anti-socials” were trying to stall the voting process in some areas.

In its letter to the EC, the Congress party said, “It is to draw attention to the violation of utilising materials and pens, having the symbol of the BJP political party, by the polling agents and officers working in the polling booth in the entire state of Gujarat, where the election is in process on May 7, 2024. The pens have a picture/symbol of the BJP and the same is being used within the polling booths…”

The complaint also stated, “Every polling booth is decorated with flags and torans with the symbol of the BJP. It is a clear-cut violation of the Model Code of Conduct. Above mentioned corrupt practice adopted by the BJP to influence the election process.”

After the Congress party raised the issue of the presence of stationery items bearing the election symbol of the BJP in polling stations, President Shaktisinh Gohil also took to X and Instagram to post videos of the Sector-19 polling station in Gandhinagar, where he had gone to cast his vote. In the video, Gohil is seen questioning the presiding officer for turning a blind eye to the issue and also accused the ECI of not acting on the Congress complaint in the matter.

The Congress also filed separate complaints regarding alleged “threats” being issued to voters and voters being “stalled” from voting. In a second complaint, the GPCC stated that “anti-socials have prevented minority voters from polling in the Polling Stations of Bhata School of 42-Vejalpur Assembly Constituency in Gandhinagar Parliamentary constituency” and of threats being issued to voters of Rotary Nagar in Morbi in Kutch Lok Sabha constituency.

In the complaint, the Congress party said, “A BJP worker named Ravi Govind has been threatening the voters stating that if they do not vote for the BJP, they will not be allowed to cast their vote or step into the polling station… He has been trying to stall the polling process in the area…”

Congress Lok Sabha candidate from Banaskantha Geni Thakor also took to X, posting a video in which she allegedly “caught a man”, who was going around polling stations in her constituency threatening voters.

In another complaint, Geniben Thakor, the Congress candidate from Banaskantha Lok Sabha seat, appealed to the Election Commission to file an FIR against alleged coercion of voters in Danta taluka. “At Danta taluka’s Dhareda Vashi and Siawada villages, youths of Chaudhary community of other districts are threatening voters by putting fake police plates on their cars and forcing them to vote for BJP, please take action against them,” Geniben stated on X in a video holding the CRPF plate in her hands.

Geniben is facing the BJP’s Rekhaben Chaudhary in the Banaskantha Lok Sabha constituency, the one seat with two women candidates are contesting.

When contacted, P Bharathi, Chief Election Officer, Gujarat, said the complaints have been considered and appropriate action will also be taken. The Indian Express reported Bharathi saying, “We had instructed all district collectors to ensure immediately that no one carries merchandise or stationery items with symbols of political parties. I have asked them to tell polling agents also to leave such pens outside the polling stations… I have also instructed the local Commissioners of Police and Superintendents of Police to look into the complaints of threats in the respective constituencies from where the complaints have been received.”

Slippery slope

Gujarat is one state where BJP had won all the 26 seats in both previous Lok Sabha elections, 2014 and 2019. The party began the 2024 general elections believing that an encore was certain. However, on the eve of the third phase of polling on Tuesday, what was initially presumed to be easily achievable for the BJP is not proving to be entirely so.

The landscape has lately significantly altered Local controversies, simmering social discontent, agrarian distress and poor human development indices apart from internal dissensions among BJP ranks have reshaped the scenario.

At least seven Lok Sabha seats namely, Surendranagar, Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, Rajkot, Anand, Patan, Jamnagar and Junagadh are seeing fierce contests, where victory margins may narrow significantly even if they manage to avoid slipping out of the BJP’s grasp. Besides, there have been significant pushbacks in Dahod, Bharuch Valsad and Bardoli So while seven seats for the INDIA alliance (one is being fought by an AAP candidate) is what is being estimated at the end of today, May 7, the scenario could even change further.

A prominent Kshatriya leader, Karansingh Chanwda made this statement at the end of polling on Tuiesday:

“BJP will lose seven seats in Gujarat (at least)


In this Lok Sabha seat, several candidates from the Talpada Koli and Chunwaliya Koli communities vied for tickets creating tensions for the BJP. Despite for demands for a BJP ticket to someone from the Talpada Koli community, the party favoured  Chandubhai Sihora, hailing from the Chunwaliya Koli faction, causing dissensions.

The Talpada Koli constitute a significant portion of voters, around 3 lakh, of the approximately four and a half lakh Koli voters in the area. What has made the battle intereting is the clever nomination by the Congress of Ritvik Makwana from the Talpada Koli community. Furthermore, the Kshatriya movement, gaining momentum across Gujarat against the BJP, could prove a pivotal factor in deciding fortunes in this constituency.

Throughout the campaign trail, the BJP leaders encountered resistance in urban and rural settings alike. The palpable discontent among the Talpada Koli and Kshatriya communities poses a potential threat to BJP’s prospects in this seat.


In Sabarkantha, the political arena is showing promises signas for the grand old party.  Former Chief Minister Amar Singh Chaudhary’s son, Tushar Chaudhary, is in the fray fray as the Congress candidate.

Shobhana Baraiya, spouse of a former Congress MLA who defected to the BJP, is also vying for the seat. Initially, the BJP had nominated Bhikhaji Thakor for this constituency, but amid controversy surrounding his surname, he withdrew his candidacy, triggering widespread protests. Supporters of Bhikhaji staged demonstrations across the Sabar Kantha district, expressing their discontent with the BJP for choosing Shobana instead.

The opposition is not limited to Bhikhaji’s supporters alone. BJP MLA Ramanlal Vora encountered resistance and several other BJP leaders faced opposition during their rallies.

Here in Adivasi dominated Sabarkantha, that also has a concentration of Muslims the Thakor community commanding 20 percent of the votes in this constituency and the combination of a significant share of their votes going against saffron could mean a defeat for the BJP.


In Banaskantha, the videos of the fiery Ganiben Thakor, recognized for her victory over the current Speaker of the Gujarat Assembly, Shankar Chaudhary, in the 2017 assembly election, have gone viral after she emerged as the Congress candidate. Meanwhile, BJP has nominated Rekha Chaudhary, perceived to be aligned with the Shankar Chaudhary faction.

The Chaudhary and Thakor communities hold significant sway in this constituency which has 19 lakh voters. Historically, the outcome of elections here hinges on the support of these communities. Despite speculation that Parbat Patel, the BJP leader who won the 2019 Lok Sabha election, was being considered as a potential candidate against Rekha Chaudhary, he did not receive the ticket. This has led to speculation that Parbat Patel’s supporters are inactive.

Many highlight Ganiben’s active presence among the people, and underline Rekha’s perceived lack of experience. What turned the tide here was the electrifying speech of Priyanka Gandhi on the final day, indicating the fact that the Congress too believes they are in with a chance.

Priyanka Gandhi (L) launched a blistering attack on PM Narendra Modi in Banaskantha, a seat that the Congress is pinning high hopes on. “Why isn’t Modi fighting from Gujarat when he claims he has done a lot for state,” asked Priyanka.

It was not just Purshottam Rupala who seriously irked the Kashatriya community. Rupala is also contesting from Rajkot (n Saurashtra). Even while the community was agitating against the Rupala. –even demanding that he be dropped by BJP as its candidate—another BJP leader, Kirit Patel, also made matters worse.

Condemning the statement, Kshatriya Community Coordination Committee convener Karansinh Chavda said, “BJP has failed to stop its leaders from making derogatory remarks against the Kshatriya community, so the community has decided to not vote for BJP candidates. It failed to respect the community’s demand and drop Rupala as party candidate. Now we will aggressively campaign against the ruling party.”

Facing flak, Kirit Patel released a video apologising to the Kshatriyas. Minister of state of home Harsh Sanghvi and BJP’s general secretary (organisation) Ratnakar are holding district-wise meetings with Kshatriya leaders in a damage control exercise.

Repercussions of the Rajput sentiments hve been felt in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh too. In a desperate bid to pacify the rebellion of the Kshatriya community against the party, the BJP has sent Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to Bisahada village, which is part of the Satha-Chaurasi area, known as the ‘army factory’ of North India.


Rajkot, in Saurashtra has been traditionally viewed as a stronghold for the BJP, but has witnessed unexpected outcomes in the past. It is another matter that former Congress leaders who once shaped those results have now crossed over to the BJP. The electorate in this constituency is predominantly composed of Patidar, Koli, and Kshatriya voters.

BJP candidate Parushottam Rupala’s remarks regarding the Kshatriya community have sparked opposition from Kshatriya voters across Gujarat. In response to Rupala’s candidacy, the Congress has nominated Paresh Dhanani, a prominent leader from the Leua Patidar Community, who previously defeated Rupala in the Amreli Legislative Assembly.

The ongoing Kshatriya movement has heightened attention on this seat capturing the interest of the entire state.


In Anand, near Vadodara, the Kshatriya movement’s influence and rural dissatisfaction with the ruling party have become pronounced. The Congress, once a formidable force in the region with a robust network, is now, agaion gaining ground. Here, the party has nominated former Congress president Amit Chavda to contest, while Mitesh Patel represents the BJP. Campaign dynamics intensified with the circulation of viral videos targeting the BJP candidate. Besides, the impact of the Kshatriya movement has resonated in Anand, with the community staging multiple protests during meetings held by BJP leaders.

Amit Chavda’s charisma and his family’s deep-rooted connections within the locality have also bolstered the Congress’ prospects.


In Patan, the electoral battle narrows down to a face-off between BJP’s Bharat Singh Thakor and Congress’s Chandanji Talaji Thakor. Ironically, Chandanji Thakor enjoys a favorable reputation within the Thakor community. This constituency comprises assembly seats like Sidhpur, Patan, Chansma, Randhanpur, Vadgam, Kheralu, and Sidhpur. While BJP typically holds strong ground in Kheralu and Sidhpur, Congress’ influence prevails in Randhanpur and Patan.

Moreover, Patidar community leader and Congress MLA Kirit Patel hails from Patan. Vadgam, on the other hand, is characterized by its Kshatriya, minority, and Dalit demographics. The outcome of the Patan seat hinges on factors such as the influence of the Kshatriya movement and the support from minority voters.


In Junagadh, the resistance against BJP candidate Rajesh Chudasma is deep. Apart from allegations regarding his involvement in the suicide of a prominent doctor from Veraval, local leaders express discontent with his leadership. Critics highlight Chudasma’s notably low participation in public-oriented initiatives, irrespective of party affiliations. The Visavadar seat within the Junagadh constituency is witnessing the stiffest level of opposition toward Chudasma.

Additionally, Congress leader Hira Jotwa’s standing, the cumulative impact of the Kshatriya movement, and opposition stemming from the suicide of a doctor from the Lohana Thakkar community compound Chudasma’s challenges.


Interestingly, the Congress candidate –Advocate Maraviyya is contesting on the INC ticket and Poonam Madam, a Ahir on the BJP ticket. In the burgeoning discontent evident all over the western Indian state –which includes vast sections of the agricultural labourers, farmers, and working people—this constituency located within the “Devbhumi Dwarka district” may see a surprise win for the grand old party. All other sections of the voters including Kshatriyas, Darbars, Patel, and others which include minorities have, it is being gauged, voted against Madam who won convincingly in both 2019 and 2014 defeating the Congress candidates convincingly. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP candidate Poonamben Hematbhai won with 591,588 votes, while Congresss Murubhai Kandoriya Ahir secured 354,784 votes. In the 2014 elections, Poonam Ben Madam of BJP defeated Arjan Bhai Madam of Congress, with Poonam Ben receiving 484,412 votes (56.8%) and Arjan Bhai getting 309,123 votes (36.3%). Hence a consolidation of resentment and votes against the formidable BJP election machine would be a huge victory for the Congress. The assembly constituencies of Kalavad (Scheduled Castes), Jamnagar Rural, Jamnagar North, Jamnagar South, Jamjodhpur, Khambhalia, and Dwarka are within the Parliamentary constituency. . The estimated population of Jamnagar district is 2,516,000.

Issues in this election

Government exam paper leaks, jobs, drinking water, ban on onion export, Kshatriya pride – these are some of the issues which are playing on the minds of the voters this election season in Gujarat. Scarcity of water, inaccessibility of sitting members of parliament and the agrarian policies of the “double engione sarkar” of Bhupendra Patel (chief minister) and Narendra Modi (prime minister).

Just five months back, in December 2023, farmers in Bhavnagar’s Mahuva town – ‘the onion bowl of Gujarat’ – and other parts of the state had blocked roads after the central government banned onion export. At the Mahuva Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), onion prices crashed from an average Rs 462 per mann (20 kg) to around Rs 210 within four days. A similar drop was also witnessed in 2020 after the government banned exports to rein in soaring prices. Arguably, these are the issues that are playing on the minds of farmers this poll season. This region is known as the ‘Onion Bowl’ of the state.

Besides, the flash floods of September 2023 caused by sudden release of water from the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River destroyed nearly 25 homes in Juna Chhapra village of Ankleshwar taluka in Bharuch district, which was among the worst hit.

Valsad, Dahod, Bardoli and Bharuch could well unravel another layer to the take as the growing consciousness amongst Gujarat’s Adivasis on the non-implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 was assiduously campaigned by seasoned activists in the region for over eight months!

Joblessnes and Paper leaks

The morning and eve of the polls was marked by one more scandal from paper leaks ensuring that a young voter—already despairing of joblessness—was expressing outright frustration.

‘Kshatriya samaj first’

Rupala, attending a Dalit event on March 22 this year, had said that “the erstwhile ‘Maharajas’ broke bread with the British and also married off their daughters to them”, invited the ire of the Kshatriya community. The Saurashtra region of Gujarat had been on the boil ever since, with Rajput community demanding an apology from Rupala.

During a campaign in the city on Monday night, BJP’s Jamnagar candidate Poonam Maadam too encountered protests from youths brandishing black flags. When stopped, Maadam shouted at the mob, saying, “Enough, now stop the protest and agitation.” The police on duty detained some Kshatriya youths, but released later. Kishorsinh Jadeja, a Kshatriya youth, told media that Rajputs are not only angry with Rupala. “We are angry with the party too. Our demand was very simple, to withdraw Rupala from the fray. But the ruling party did not agree.”

Campaigning had –in several parts -become difficult for Maadam. Party sources said she could not address a small gathering just 100 metres away from her residence in Jamnagar.

June 4 will decide the fate of all Gujaratis in the 18th Lok Sabha polls. Meanwhile evidence of disquiet in the ruling BJP, talk of reduced margins even in Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad continue to emerge out of a state, once considered a home run for prime minister Narendta Modi.


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