A Patel at the helm: On change of guard in Gujarat

The BJP is once again willing to accommodate dominant caste groups

The return of a Patel at the helm indicates a reversal of the BJP strategy of building coalitions of diverse caste groups under a leader from a marginal caste. Mr. Modi projected himself as a backward class leader in 2014, and subsequent choices in leadership at various levels largely followed this trend. There have been exceptions, such as Yogi Adityanath, a Rajput, who was elected Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh. Within the party and outside of it, dominant castes have been resenting this and the BJP has now begun to feel the pressure. When it had to replace veteran warhorse B.S. Yediyurappa, a member of the dominant Lingayat community as Chief Minister in Karnataka, the BJP ensured that his successor was from the same community. The ongoing stand-off between the party and the Jat farmers in U.P. and Haryana is also indicative of the tension between the BJP and a dominant social group. The party’s Chief Minister in Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, is facing the heat. These communities are bargaining for a bigger share of power in the BJP’s Hindutva tent. The BJP is partially acting under pressure, but it may also be feeling more confident of the support of the marginal communities and poorer sections to accommodate its traditional supporters.

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