Gujarat polls is crucial for both the BJP and Congress as this will determine which way political winds will blow in 2019 General Elections.
No State poll has assumed so much importance for the two principle parties in India as Gujarat. Both the BJP and the Congress are leaving no stone unturned to wrest the state. While the BJP is aiming high to capture majority of the seats, the Congress is giving the saffron brigade a tough time on Modi’s turf and backyard.
Come December 18 India we will know who will govern Gujarat and who has an edge of winning the crucial Lok Sabha polls in 2019. Gujarat election results will set the tone for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
If the Congress manages to pin down the BJP, the saffron brigade will be on its back foot in 2019. But if the Modi-Shah combine manages to sweep Gujarat, then there will be no looking back for the BJP.
As of today, the BJP is on the backfoot and appears nervous. For the Congress, there is nothing to lose.
The BJP is worried as Modi’s once-upon-a-time model state is in a disarray almost on all fronts. Once known for its spectacular agricultural growth, the state is today in the grips of a major agrarian crisis. Taking advantage of this, the Congress has promised farm loan waivers, forcing chief minister Vijay Rupani to slash interest on agricultural loans to zero percent – something unusual.
Gujarat was also known for its vibrant small and medium manufacturing enterprises. This sector is now in a tailspin and is facing major dislocation due to demonetisation and the transition to GST. The business houses are upset and angry.
Now, agrarian crisis and problems of small traders are common across many states. If the tide goes against the BJP, it will translate into a rejection of both demonetisation and GST in Modi’s own state. This will be a major tune for the Congress to trumpet about in 2019.
Being Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home State and BJP President Amit Shah’s political bastion, Gujarat victory is important for both of them, as well as for the party. No wonder, Prime Minister Modi has taken upon himself the task of announcing several sops to the State, beginning with the announcement of the Bullet Train with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe standing alongside.
Whether it is the Narmada project, statue of Vallabhbhai Patel or the Bullet Train from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always given first preference to his home State.
In fact, it was keeping in mind the Gujarat polls and at the instructions of Modi that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on the eve of GST council meeting gave several concessions to the diamond merchants, jewellers and to the textile industry. The duty on Khakhra and other delicacies were reduced to placate the residents of the State. A few more announcements are expected from the Prime Minister before elections are announced in the state and the Model Code of Conducts come into operation.
Seeing the BJP on the defensive for the first time, the Congress is enthused and has turned ballistic, targeting Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah, whose company Temple Enterprise’s profit jumped from mere Rs 50,000 in 2014-15 to Rs 80.5 crore in 2015-16.
After three years of being routed and humiliated in the General Elections, the Congress under Rahul Gandhi is finally warming up to the challenges thrown up by the BJP leadership. With the exception of Punjab, the Congress lost elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Assam and failed to form its governments in Goa and Manipur, but now Rahul Gandhi has woken up and has taken up the challenge to defeat the BJP in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bastion. The victory in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha polls in Punjab by more than one lakh votes comes as a big morale-booster to the Congress.
Rahul Gandhi’s popularity, this time around, has suddenly gone up, which was visible during his Gujarat election tour last week. However, it will be too early to say, whether he would succeed in outsmarting the BJP bosses, led by none else than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, himself, and followed by indefatigable Amit Shah, whose prestige is at stake in these elections.
Having the full authority to summon any Central Minister at any point of time, BJP President Amit Shah has taken upon himself to ensure the defeat of the Congress. Whether it is debates, press conferences or any announcement, Shah is fielding his firebrand Ministers like Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, I&B and Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, etc., to counter the Congress and most importantly Congress Star Campaigner Rahul Gandhi.
The BJP has pulled out all stops to ensure that Rahul Gandhi is attacked and criticized on every point, so that he becomes a laughing stock and unacceptable to the people at large.
However, owing to the incumbency factor in Gujarat, people are taking Rahul Gandhi rather seriously and attending his public meetings. During his Navsarjan Yatra in Gujarat, Gandhi used all the tricks, like playing the soft Hindutva card, visiting temples and shrines in the Patidar-dominated Saurashtra region and also danced with the tribals, in order to retain the Congress’s traditional vote bank.
The Congress is hopeful that Hardik Patel by forging a pre-poll pact with his outfit, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti will come to their side, thus giving a jolt to the BJP, which is trying hard to retain the State, even after 20 years.
Patels constitute around 16 per cent of the State’s population, whose support is important to both the Congress and the BJP. As regards the other castes, excluding Patidars, both enjoy the support of 42 per cent, each. Traditionally, the Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslim (KHAM) alliance forged by Madhavsinh Solanki has voted in large numbers for the Congress, while the Upper Caste and the OBCs have voted for the BJP. It is the support of the Patidars, which has been clinching the deal in favour of the BJP for the past two decades.
Seeing the winds of change, the Congress satraps, however, are treading carefully, knowing that the BJP bosses have the capability of turning the tide to their side. Already, Gujarat Chief Minister has announced various sops for the Patidars and has also promised to withdraw sedition charges against Hardik Patel.
Learning the art of marketing and socialising from none else than the BJP, the Congress has also become active on twitter and has started trolling its opponents on the social media.
Rahul Gandhi, this time, is targeting the BJP on its developmental plank by asking people at public meetings, “Vikas Gando Thayo Che?” (Development has gone crazy) with the people replying in the affirmative.
Nervous over the growing fan following of Rahul Gandhi, BJP satraps are busy listing out development projects that have been started by the BJP in their tenure and are being worked out in future. Interestingly, when Rahul Gandhi was touring Gujarat for three days, Amit Shah, along with Smriti Irani and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, went to Amethi to target the Congress scion, saying that the person who failed to construct Collectorate office in his own constituency of Amethi, how can he bring development projects in Gujarat? “Rahul Gandhi is not the follower of Development but Destruction,” declared Yogi Adityanath during his campaign in South Gujarat. He also targeted Rahul Gandhi by terming him the supporter of “terrorist” Ishrat Jahan.
No doubt, BJP is using all the tactics at its command to tarnish the image of Rahul Gandhi by showing him as immature, irresponsible and ridiculing his visits to the temples. Speaking at the University of California in the US, Rahul Gandhi alleged that a BJP machine with 1000 guys on computer was working to prove that he is reluctant, he is stupid.
However, it seems that Rahul Gandhi has finally arrived, though it will be a tough challenge for him to defeat the BJP in Gujarat, the State where both Prime Minister Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have staked everything to retain the government. Winning Gujarat is not only a matter of prestige for them, but also of their own political survival.
One advantage working in favour of the BJP is that the Congress has no tall leader and is a divided house after the exit of stalwart Shankarsinh Vaghela. The voters also know that handing over the state to the Congress would mean that the development in the state will be badly hit as the BJP at the centre will put all sort of spokes.
But the Congress need not win; just reducing the margin of the BJP would also mean victory.
The daggers are drawn, the fight would be intense and the verbal onslaught the ugliest. One, however, would have to wait to see, who is the strategist and wins the hearts of the 6.76 crore Gujaratis. Whether Rahul Gandhi has really matured or whether Modi’s popularity is waning? Gujarat poll results will answer all these queries.