The party which has been propagating a Congress mukt Bharat is battling a strong social media campaign of “Congress ave Che” in Modi’s home turf Gujarat. The elections are different this time and nobody can deny this. Surveys predict BJP maintaining its historical 2x seat tally of Congress.
5 Factors Which Make These Elections Different Than Others
For any party which has been ruling the state for past 20 years or so, it is but natural to have some sort of anti-incumbency. However is there sufficient anger that people want to throw out the govt. and bring any-body else in power. That’s the key question which will decide if BJP wins or loses. The degree of anti-incumbency here is the key.
Unlike 2007 and 2012, where Modi & BJP could pass on the blame for some of their failures and inaction on the UPA government at the centre, this time, this privilege is not available to the party leadership. Both in the centre and in the state, BJP is in power, so, it has to take the flak from the public for its inaction.
- Absence of Modi & Shah
This is the first time in the last 15 years that these two charismatic leaders are not there at the helm. Everybody knows that their shoes are too big to fill and neither Vijay Rupani, or Anandi Ben, nor Nitin Patel can match the charisma of Modi and Shah. So, essentially, the party is bereft of a charismatic face on which it can bank to win the elections.
BJP is trying to make up for this by conducting a super campaign lead by PM Modi who is supposed to hold a rally each in 32 districts. 30 central ministers and Shah are expected to be camped for a month in the state up to the date of polls as per news reports.
- Traders traditional support base of BJP unhappy GST & Demonetization
Traders have been traditional supporters of BJP. They have flourished in this industrialised & urbanised state for decades. Demonetisation however has broken the back of traders dealing predominantly in cash. The small scale sector has witnessed job losses. Business has been crippled.
If that was not enough, GST aims to bring into the formal sector people outside the tax net. Many traders have been out of the net, dealing in cash and not paying taxes. Both these steps have angered this lot and caused heartburn among the trading community in Gujarat.
As per Axis-India Today survey 51% people surveyed said they were not satisfied with GST. 53% people surveyed said they have not benefited from demonetization. Fearing a backlash govt. has provided relaxations to small & medium enterprises. 47% traders surveyed said changes are only cosmetic as per CDSD opinion poll.
- Chinks in Hindu Vote
BJP has always contested the elections in Gujarat on the theme of Hindu consolidation. People across caste groups have voted for BJP in large numbers (except for Dalits and STs). However, this time, due to agitations from Patidars, from Dalits, and OBCs, it is turning out to be a caste-based election.
The Hindu vote, which consolidated in favor of BJP in the past elections, is unlikely to happen this time. Patidars, Dalits, as well as the section of OBCs, could vote for Congress, as their demands have not been met. The young Turks Hardik, Jignesh and Alpesh are leading these fronts.
- Vikas Ganda Thayo Chey
The revered Gujarat model is being challenged on social media platforms. Vikas Ganda Thayo Chey has become a popular slogan signifying, all is not well with this model in Gujarat. 66% surveyed have heard of this slogan. 49% people said it depicted the real condition of Gujarat as per CDSD opinion poll. There is severe inequity. It has slipped in a lot of human development indicators post-Modi and the famous Gujarat model is being questioned.
Critics could argue that there was never this Gujarat model in place first of all, and Modi created a perception of Gujarat model to win votes. This perception is likely to damage the BJP this time. Congress is trying to create a perception that after Modi, Gujarat has fallen from its path of development. If people buy this then there are dangers for BJP.
Is media overplaying the frustration / degree of displeasure amongst people and will BJP emerge victorious as it happened in UP? Only time will tell…