The BJP could call snap elections in its stronghold state Gujarat to cash in on the popularity surge after landslide wins in the latest polls in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and forming governments in Manipur and Goa despite finishing second.
Chief minister Vijay Rupani has hinted as much. Polls are due in this western state in December. But a buoyed Bharatiya Janata Party may push for early polls to keep the wind in its sails.
“The win in UP is not a momentary outburst of people’s sentiments for the BJP, but the wind is blowing in favour of the party as people have faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Rupani said.
“We are prepared even if elections are held early,” he replied to a query on the party’s preparations for assembly polls in the state.
The outcome of the five-state, February-March polls has put the spring back on the feet of the party’s Gujarat unit, which has been besieged by a clutch of problems since its mascot chief minister Narendra Modi left the state to become the Prime Minister in 2014.
The party had two chief ministers during its 22-year-rule in Gujarat. But it had to try two chief ministers in two years since Modi’s exit after a 13-year stint.
Fault lines appeared within the BJP, giving the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) a toehold. But the new entrant’s latest drubbing in Goa and Punjab, where it hoped to do well, has given the BJP’s Gujarat unit the confidence to tide over a series of protests and a dismal performance in the 2015 rural and civic elections.
The state has been engulfed by protests, especially the Patidar or Patel stir for reservation in jobs and education, and Dalits for justice and empowerment in wake of the flogging of people from the community in Una.
People belonging to the other backward classes (OBCs) are protesting to counter the Patidar uprising, which has recorded several deaths in violence.
After the rural and municipal elections, which the Congress won after 30 years, opposition leaders had favoured early assembly elections. But no such signs are coming from the Congress camp, which did poorly in the latest polls, barring Punjab.
The AAP has announced it would contest from all the 182 seats in the Gujarat assembly. It has begun the ground work, but reverses in Punjab and Goa might force a strategy rethink.
For their part, Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah could concentrate more on their home state now, since no elections are due before the yearend, other than Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
The Prime Minister visited the state last week and stayed for two days, addressed two public rallies, met party functionaries, legislators and parliamentarians, and offered prayers at Somnath temple.
His visit, coupled with Rupani’s hints, swirled speculation that the ruling BJP might dissolve the assembly and call early polls. The signals grew stronger as the state election commission is expected to complete the exercise of getting the voter list poll-ready by April.
Rupani sounded confident of victory, saying the BJP will win 150 seats — a target set by Modi. The party seeks to break the Congress record of winning 149 seats in 1985, a feat the BJP has not been able to upstage despite ruling the state for more than two decades.
“Our party workers have been given a slogan: 300 in UP, 150 in Gujarat. The echo of that win (in UP) will have an effect on Gujarat too,” the chief minister said.
He called Modi the party’s pillar and said the elections would be fought under his leadership.