With the Election Commission announcing the Gujarat poll dates, (December 9 and 14), the stage has been set for a pivotal contest, which may create the ambience for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Because it was the 2012 Gujarat poll results that had set the tone for the 2014 general elections. The comparison appears farfetched in the face of two opinion polls that give BJP a 10 per cent vote advantage over Congress despite the GST and demonetisation woes and local incumbencies, but there are a few factors that may also be the party’s undoing.
The nervousness is writ large on the saffron camp, as Gujarat has gone through a marked social churn over the past five years. Patidars, who comprise approximately 14 per cent votes, along with the upper castes and Vaishyas were once diehard BJP supporters. Now of course, they’re in a mood for rebellion, irked majorly over the iron-hand dealing with them during their Patidar movement over reservations under youth leader Hardik Patel. The Una incident of Dalits’ beating last July has also deepened the fault lines, as the community galvanised under Jignesh Mevani is ready to settle the score. And the disenchantment of Kshatriyas, under Alpesh Thakor’s leadership, may also create a roadblock for the BJP. The young Kshatriya leader along with Hardik and Alpesh may prove to be an eyesore for the saffron camp.
Interestingly, the battle is also being fought on the social media where Rahul Gandhi’s tweets and remarks have gained more traction. In the last one month, Gandhi has spent six days in the state, launching a scathing assault on the BJP, trying to puncture the claims about the Gujarat model of development. But the desertion of Shankersinh Vaghela, an influential Kshatriya leader, may also cost the Congress dearly, as he has vowed to contest all the 182 seats under a new political front.
Amid all this, the BJP has played a masterstroke to boost the note ban and GST-hit economy by announcing a massive Rs 6.92 lakh crore infrastructure spending and another Rs 2.11 lakh crore for bank recapitalisation to revive investments as well as growth. Party chief Amit Shah has set a target of 150 seats this time, but for that we have to wait till December 18.