Narendra Modi could face a stiff challenge from the Leuva Patels, one of the most influential votebanks in the state, who have indicated that they could vote against Modi and BJP in the upcoming assembly polls.
The Leuva Patels, who can influence the outcome in 33 out of 48 seats in Saurashtra, were more tilted towards Keshubhai Patel, the former state chief minister who set up his own Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) after quitting from the BJP in August. Patel is a known to be a strong critic of Modi and would like to oust the longest-serving chief minister of the state. The BJP, on the other hand, said that the Leuvas will vote in favour of Modi.
According to Naresh Patel, a Leuva Patel leader said the community will go against the Gujarat chief minister and is more impressed with the GPP. Patel's statement has created some tension in the ranks of the BJP for if the Leuvas vote against the party in the upcoming polls, it will be a daunting task for Modi to win in the Saurashtra region.
Recently, Leuva leaders met at Khodaldham, a famous pilgrimage centre, and decided that the community would vote in favour of one party and Keshubhai, the man who belongs to the same community, looks to be a more preferred candidate.
The BJP had been trying hard to woo the Leuvas but the recent comment by cricketer-turned-MP Navjot Singh Sidhu mocking Keshubhai has angered the party. Sidhu had called Keshubhai a spent bullet and the latter made an emotional appeal in reply, saying he would be stoned to death if he was indeed a traitor.
The BJP was still trying to do some damage control. Party leader Purushottam Rupala said the voters are not influenced by words and will judge Modi in terms of his performance as the chief minister. Whatever be the BJP's thoughts, it can not be denied that Modi has his task cut out and the outcome of the battle in Saurashtra will determine his future as the chief minister.