With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) eyeing a clean sweep in the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls later this year, the Congress is aiming at not only reviving its age-old KHAM—Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, and Muslim—formula, but is also trying to woo the Patel community to recreate the “magic victory” of the 1980s. The Congress has been out of power in Gujarat since 1995.
The “KHAM alliance” was formed by Congress leader Madhavsinh Solanki in the 1980s in Gujarat to grab power. The Congress won 149 seats in the 182-member Assembly. However, this landslide victory also came at a price—the powerful Patel community and the upper castes moved away from the Congress.
In order to take on the BJP in Gujarat, Bharatsinh Solanki, state Congress president, is trying to revive the “magic formula” once propounded by his father, Madhavsinh Solanki. He is also stressing on wooing the Patel community to expand the KHAM mantra to KHAMP—Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim and Patel.
Commenting on claims of reviving the age-old KHAM formula, Akhilesh Paratp Singh, a senior Congress leader, said: “The Congress has been providing space to all without differentiating among them on the basis of caste, class, gender and region.”
Raju Patel, a close ally of Hardik Patel, told The Sunday Guardian: “The brutal attacks on and arrests of agitators demanding reservations for Patels are still going on and in such a scenario, the political shift is evident.” However, when asked about an alliance between the Congress and the Hardik Patel-led Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), Raju Patel said: “On the matter of alliance with any political party, only Hardik Patel can say.”
On the condition of anonymity, a PAAS leader told The Sunday Guardian: “The BJP government has always tried to crush the Patidar andolan in the state and in such circumstances, the Patidar community is looking at the Congress as the real partner.”
Although Hardik Patel has been non-committal about any political alliance, according to sources, this may change soon as Congress state president Bharatsinh Solanki is trying to cement an alliance with the PAAS before the elections. “Congress is in touch with PAAS convener in Mehsana,” Ramesh Thakore, a Congress leader from Mehsana district, said. “The Congress this year won 29 out of 44 municipal council seats in Mehsana and it happened only because support from Patidar voters,” Thakore added. The Patidars, who comprise an estimated 12-20% of Gujarat’s population, are expected to swing the election results in Gujarat.