Winning the Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017 Crucial for both BJP and Congress

Our Associate Editor, Navodita, takes a hard look at the forthcoming Gujarat Assembly Elections in 2017. It will be held in two phases on December 9 and December 14. Here’s a political analysis, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

Gujarat 2017 elections are going to be held in two phases on December 9 and December 14, which also carries an additional layer of importance: whether for the Congress or the BJP, a win or a loss will go a long way in possibly determining the outcome even in the summer of 2019.

Although Modi continues to be the main face of the BJP, a major criticism leveled against the party was that without Modi as a chief ministerial candidate in Gujarat, it has been difficult for the state to replicate its past successes. The BJP had to replace Anandiben Patel with Vijay Rupani in order to infuse more life into the administration. In terms of governance, the three years that Modi moved to the Centre have not been the best for Gujarat. While the BJP is aspiring for a record fifth term in office in Modi’s home state, the Congress, too, is backing on the party bigwigs to woo the voters. Since Modi has moved to the Centre the Congress feels it has a fair chance to fight.

The party is definitely attempting a new caste alliance with the Patidars, Kshatriyas and Scheduled Castes. There is definitely discontent in the state but it is to be seen whether the Congress can capitalise on it. This is the first time in two decades that the state is seeing a resurgent opposition in the state. The state has earlier witnessed social unrest with protests by sections of the dominant Patel community, Dalits and other backward classes (OBCs). Usually, the BJP has retained the majority vote share of all these social groups.

Though Modi has already organised at least five roadshows and public meetings in the state, while Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also held a series of public meetings with the assistance of Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mewani, and Alpesh Thakore. Both sides have staked claim to the promise of development, thereby making it a central issue in the upcoming poll. In the 2012 elections, the ruling BJP had won 115 seats with 47.8% vote share, while the Congress had won 61 seats with 38.9% vote share in the 182-member state assembly. While the districts including Kachchh, Rajkot, Jamnagar, and Surat will go to poll in the first phase, the districts of Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, and Vadodara will go to poll in the second phase.

Recently as the poll campaigning gains momentum, even the bitter remarks have started doing the rounds taking the form of bitter political strife, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani alleged that one of two ISIS suspects arrested by Gujarat anti-terrorism squad had worked in a hospital where Ahmed Patel was a trustee. Ahmed Patel is the high-profile political secretary of the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat. The Congress and the hospital authorities have denied any link between Patel and the trust that runs the hospital. The allegation, however, drives home the point that development is not going to be the only issue on which BJP will contest the elections. It goes ahead to show that hardline terror and nationalism are high on the BJP’s agenda this time.

Also, the opposition parties claimed that the late announcement of Gujarat elections has given the country’s ruling party a sweep and an edge ahead as they found their way to sweep the Model Code of Conduct, which effectively prevents the sitting government from announcing projects that could sway voters in their favour. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Achal Kumar Joti said the delay was due to floods in the state and ‘Diwali festivities’ and there was no reason why the dates should have been announced on the same day as Himachal Pradesh.

Two opinion polls were conducted by two different agencies at a gap of one month and the findings of the surveys are worrying the ruling BJP. Findings indicate that as the polls are approaching, the Congress is gaining ground and BJP is losing it at a fast pace. According to the findings of the Lokniti-CSDS poll, the BJP could win between 144 and 152 seats and the Congress between 26 and 32 seats whereas others could get 3 to 7 seats. According to India Today-Axis My India opinion poll prediction, BJP would get an absolute majority. The Congress would put up a fight this time and be expected to win 57 to 65 seats. This poll also indicated that out of all chief ministers 34 percent preferred Vijay Rupani, while 19 percent liked Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil as the choice of CM and 11 percent supported Bharatsinh Madhavsinh Solanki. Ten percent of the respondents thought Amit Shah and another ten percent thought Hardik Patel were also good choices as chief ministers.

With various opinion polls coming up with their own indications, it is definitely going to be a ‘good show’ by the Congress crucial for the 2019 elections. Development, jobs and price rise are going to be the key issues for these polls. While a majority of the people are unhappy with the tax reform of GST and even with demonetisation, bijli, Sadak, paani seem to have taken a backseat. Nationalism may be yet another issue which resurfaces off and on since the BJP has developed stronger views on ‘nationalism’ and has been taking a dig at the senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel. We have to wait and watch what turn will campaigning take by both the parties in the weeks to come.

©Navodita Pande

Photos from the Internet

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