Kshatriya protest in Gujarat explained: The story so far from BJP bastion as phase 3 polls loom

Kshatriyas have demanded the withdrawal of Rupala’s candidature from Amreli

Bjp supporters in Gujarat PTI Supporters cheer during a public meeting addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the third phase of Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat | PTI

Protests were launched against the BJP by members of the Kshatriya community in Gujarat ahead of the third phase of the Lok Sabha polls.

At the centre of the storm is the Minister of State for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Parshottam Rupala, who made a controversial remark on the Kshatriya community. At an event held in March, a member of the Rajya Sabha Rupala stated that the kings had bowed in front of the British and married off their daughters to the British while they were trying to oppress India. 

Enraged by this comment, the Kshatriyas started a protest against Parshottam Rupala's candidature in the Lok Sabha elections from Gujarat's Amreli constituency. The comment has been an insult not only to the community but also to women who felt that their pride and integrity were being questioned, the agitators claimed.

Despite Rupala’s apology and the BJP's efforts to ease the scenario, the community was not willing to back down from the protests. The Kshatriyas have demanded the withdrawal of Rupala’s candidature and have declared not to vote for the BJP if done otherwise. The protest that initially broke out in the Rajkot region soon spanned across the whole state. Mainly led by the Kshatriya women, against whom this remark was made, the protest is seeking the aid of social media platforms to garner support.

This protest can be a setback for the BJP amidst the third phase of Lok Sabha elections around the corner. However, the party hasn’t altered its stance on Rupala's candidature from Amreli. Kshatriyas constitute around 10–15% of Gujarat’s population. As they are scattered across constituencies, it is not considered to be a significant loss of votes for the ruling party. This might be one of the reasons why the BJP did not withdraw Rupala’s nomination, as the majority of voters in Gujarat have nothing to do with the protest. The community’s efforts to unify other sub-castes have also gone in vain. 

These protests highlighted the socioeconomic issues in the state between the Patidar and Kshatriya communities, who were previously the landowners. The BJP's political strategy was also criticised for emphasising Hindutva, while ignoring other pertinent issues in the state. The saffron party has not been complying with the community's demands with the surety that many Kshatriyas will stand by them.

The community has planned to boycott BJP in the state as the party stood in support of the Union Minister and the protesters have been disrupting BJP campaigns and have decided to gather their supporters on May 7, the day of the election. Over 100s of protesters have been arrested by the police in the last few days. However, the Kshatriya community has also clarified that in deference to the “dignity and respect” of the prime minister’s office, they would not protest against Narendra Modi when he arrives for campaigns.

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