PM Narendra Modi has led the BJP A-Listers in the party’s campaign, pitching the Gujarat election as a contest between development and dynasty. Rahul Gandhi attacks the BJP for not releasing a manifesto for Gujarat. An analysis by our Associate Editor, Navodita, at the close of the first phase of the Assembly polls in the state, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
As Gujarat went to polls in its first phase on Dec 9, 68% of voting was recorded in parts of the state – 89 of the state’s 182 constituencies in Kutch, Saurashtra and south Gujarat. This is lower than last time’s 71.3% for the whole state. Average voting in some major cities till 5 pm was like this: Valsad- 70%, Dwarka- 55%, Porbandar- 62%, Amreli- 65%, Dang- 72%, Jamnagar- 65%, Junagadh- 58%, Rajkot- 62%, Surat- 70% and Kutchh- 66.32%. The highest voting percentage was recorded at Navsari district at 67.56% closely followed by Morbi at 67.37 %.
PM Narendra Modi has led the BJP A-Listers in the party’s campaign, pitching the Gujarat election as a contest between development and dynasty. Rahul Gandhi attacks the BJP for not releasing a manifesto for Gujarat. He said in Vadnagar addressing a rally, “We have been working on our manifesto for the last three months. We went to all sections of society and asked people what they want their government to do. We don’t talk about ourselves. We talk about what they did in the last 22 years and what Congress will do in the next five years.” It seems the BJP released their manifesto a little day on the eve of the first phase of voting.
The Congress’ Randeep Surjewala said ‘heavy polling’ like this suggested that people wanted a vote for change, asserting that Congress will form a government. Congress’ Ahmed Patel also said that his party will win and said that there can ‘only be a hitch if there are problems with the EVM or any mischief. He was referring to a few reports of EVM tampering and faulty EVMs in some parts of the state. The Gujarat election is being viewed as a crucial state ahead of 2019 where both Congress’ Rahul Gandhi and PM Narendra Modi are seen in a kind of a duel, with both leading their parties from the front in an aggressive way.
Hardik Patel has emerged as the major leader of Patidars asking the Patels and Patidars not to stand in support of the BJP. Rahul Gandhi has partnered with Hardik Patel and Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani, also including backward caste (OBC) leader Alpesh Thakore in an attempt to consolidate votes of communities seen to be upset with the ruling BJP.
In Surat, the diamond and textile hub that has 12 assembly seats, Gandhi urged traders to punish the BJP, alleging that PM Modi’s mega reforms currency notes ban and new national tax GST have brought small business to their knees. Union ministers Arun Jaitley and Smriti Irani defended the GST and demonetisation, trying to allay the concerns of the traders.
A day before voting, the BJP had released its manifesto making a slew of promises for various sections of society which included a resolve to double farmers’ income through various means such as cheap fertilisers and seeds, better irrigation, proper minimum support prices and (access) to food processing. Arun Jaitley also said the manifesto was made keeping in mind the government had to sustain and improve on the 10% growth clocked by the state under the party’s rule. BJP, however, did not want to make any extravagant promises. It also promised to set up district-level tribal welfare boards and an Adivasi University. Other promises included new tourism circuits, development of ports, affordable healthcare for poor workers from the unorganised sector, new hostels for Scheduled Caste students and doubling of a grant given to the Thakor and Koli Development Board.
Ahead of voting in the state, an average of three opinion polls (CSDS, Cvoter and VMR) said that BJP will 110 seats in the 182-strong assembly while the Congress will win 70 seats. The Congress might have gotten a fillip from an opinion poll published earlier this week that showed it neck and neck in terms of vote share in Gujarat but the survey’s seat prediction, as well as those of two more pollsters, predicts a comfortable victory for the BJP. However, it is noticed that for the Congress it may be a case of ‘incremental gains’ instead of ‘exponential gains’ in the state.
Seat predictions are a tricky thing in first-past-the-post (FPTP) system since they involve trying to convert a more straightforward voting intention result from a survey into a likely distribution of seats.
Earlier, Arun Jaitley had hit back at Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ comment saying those who are used to monumental scams in the 2G spectrum and coal allocation will have objections to ‘legitimate tax’. The government has billed ‘GST’, which amalgamated more than a dozen central and state levies, as ‘landmark reform’ that will not just boost economic growth but also curb tax evasion. A statement issued after the briefing said, “The tax is expected to provide a boost to revenues, investment and medium-term economic growth. Despite the teething troubles that the government and GST Council are addressing, initial results in the form of revenues raised seem encouraging.”
Thus, we see that election may be a win-win for the policies of the government at the centre. The whole issue around Patidar Andolan and Patel reservation may not prove to be as strong, else it would be in favour of the Congress. The results are awaited on December 18.
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