Is there a wave in BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s favour? Opinion polls misjudged the quinquennial mood in 2004 and 2009.
That leaves Modi’s past electoral record to read. The data show Gujarat has never seen a ‘Modi wave’ though Modi led the BJP to wins in the two Lok Sabha and three assembly elections there since he became chief minister in 2001.
Supposedly broken beyond repair in Gujarat, the Congress got 40.59% votes in the December 2012 assembly election it lost to the BJP.
The Congress had fetched an even higher 43.38% in Gujarat in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. More than two in five voters thus thumbed down Modi in both elections — hardly what one expects from a leader riding a wave.
In 2004, the BJP won only 14 of Gujarat’s 26 Lok Sabha seats. That was a 30% loss from the 20 it had won in 1999.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the BJP won only 15 seats. In the Lok Sabha elections of 1991, 1996, 1998 and 1999, the BJP won 20, 16, 19 and 20 seats, respectively, in Gujarat. On Modi’s watch, the Congress revived, winning 12 seats in 2004, double its number in 1999, and 11 seats in 2009.
The BJP’s 46.53% vote share in Gujarat in the 2009 Lok Sabha election was only 3 percentage points more than the Congress’ — hardly a wave there. Worse for him, Modi’s party counterparts in other states often outperform him. In the 2012 Gujarat assembly election, the Congress’ vote share was higher than what its share would be a year later in the Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan assembly elections in 2013.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the BJP did better in Madhya Pradesh (16 seats) and Karnataka (19 seats) than it did in Gujarat. In Chhattisgarh, it won 10 out of the 11 Lok Sabha seats. Two of the 15 Gujarat seats the BJP won were gained by just 0.35% (Panchmahal) and 0.94% (Bhavnagar). It won Junagarh by 1.81% and three others — Mahesana, Chhota Udaipur and Bharuch — by only 3-4%.
Most shocking in 2009 was its first defeat in Rajkot in seven elections since 1989.
Modi denied the ticket to four-term MP, former Union minister Vallabhbhai Kathiria, and gave it to an acolyte with no political experience.
The BJP, under Modi, lost Jamnagar in 2004 and 2009, having held it continuously in five elections from 1989 to 1999.
Ditto for Valsad, which the BJP had won in 1996, 1998 and 1999. The BJP lost four other seats in 2009 it had won in 2004. These are the two north Gujarat Lok Sabha seats of Banaskantha and Patan, the central Gujarat seat of Surendranagar and the eastern seat of Dahod. (Last year, the BJP wrested Banaskantha in a by-election.) In 1999, the BJP had managed to wrest the central Gujarat seat of Anand from the Congress after three straight losses. Modi lost it in 2004 and 2009.
Even victories were less sweet. Former Union minister Kashiram Rana recorded victory margins of 150,000 lakh to 300,000 votes in Surat in five elections from 1991 to 2004.
Modi replaced him with a relatively unknown candidate in 2009 and the BJP’s victory margin slashed to less than 75,000 votes.
The BJP wins Gujarat only because there is no third player.
Just one seat proves this. In 2009, BJP rebel and former Modi henchman Gordhan Zadafia contested from Bhavnagar, making it the state’s only genuine triangular contest. The BJP won but by only 0.94%. Its vote share fell to 34.23%, its lowest in Gujarat. Why? Because Zadafia took 25% votes. Do the math.
Ajit Sahi is a senior journalist and political analyst . The views expressed by the author are personal.