Patel businessmen and housewives in South Asia’s richest village still root for BJP

People in Madhapar village with a BJP candidate
Madhapar village, Gujarat | @hitesh_khandor

Madhapar has bank deposits of Rs 5,000 crore, most of it belongs to NRIs from the village; voters here are traditionally BJP supporters.

Madhapar (Kutch district): Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel’s aggressive campaigning may have made several Patel-dominated areas across Gujarat an uphill battle for the BJP, but it seems to have little impact on what the Gujaratis identify as “South Asia’s richest village” — Madhapar.

Now designated as a town, Madhapar in Kutch district is dominated by Patels. Most of them have been loyal to the BJP and continue to be so despite the Hardik factor.

The town with 7,630 households is referred to as South Asia’s richest as it has collective bank deposits of Rs 5,000 crore and consistently figures on top of bank lists that rank deposits. Most of this money, however, is thought to belong to NRIs from Madhapar.

People from the affluent Patel community mostly say that the BJP has served them well so far and that they have their own issues that Hardik Patel’s campaign does not address. Moreover, they belong to a different sub-caste than the firebrand leader.

“We belong to the Leuva Patel community, while Hardik is a Kadwa Patel. In fact, in Kutch we don’t even call ourselves Patidars. We simply identify ourselves as Patels,” Khimji Bhai, who works in a trust that runs a local temple in Madhapar, told ThePrint.

Leuva Patels are known to be economically better off than the Kadwa Patels and also outnumber the latter. Hardik has been holding rallies across the state, reaching out to the Kadwa and Leuva Patels alike and trying to keep the community united as a whole before Saturday’s election.

“The issue of the Patidar agitation is not a talking point in Kutch. It started in north Gujarat. Hardik has come to Kutch a couple of times to amass support, but he has little influence here,” seventy-one-year-old Govind Kokane said.

The Leuva Patels of Kutch are largely businessmen, with many now being NRIs, Kokane said, adding, “Those who still live here are more concerned with issues such as getting clean drinking water than government jobs.”

He claims that the BJP government’s efforts have been a little slow in solving the drinking water problem in Kutch. “But we can see its intent,” he said.

Vijayaben Bhudia, a 49-year-old housewife in Madhapar, also rules out Hardik’s influence on the voters. “I have always been voting for the BJP. Everyone here votes for BJP,” she said.

Madhapar is part of the Bhuj assembly constituency, where BJP’s Nimaben Acharya is the incumbent MLA and the party’s candidate for Saturday’s vote.

The BJP has managed to hold on to the Bhuj seat since 1990 except for five years — from 2002 to 2007 — when it lost the constituency to the Congress in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.

 

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