The forthcoming Gujarat Assembly elections between two main contenders - the Congress and BJP - are likely to see depletion of their vote shares at the hands of other parties, also having secular and Hindutva leanings.
More than ten national and regional parties have shown willingness to contest in Gujarat elections, which has rung alarm bells for poll managers of Congress and BJP as they are likely to become show spoilers in elections, party sources said.
Those who have decided to jump in the election fray are Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, JD(U), NCP, Lok Janshakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan, and Left parties like CPI (M), which may harm the Congress's secular vote. Some of these parties had contested elections last time also.
For the first time in the state, the BJP is facing a situation where the parties sharing same ideology, like the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) floated by rebel leader Keshubhai Patel and Shiv Sena, will also contest the polls.
The other major factor is elections in Gujarat are being held for the first time after delimitation, where boundaries of more than 60 constituencies out of the total 182 have been re-drawn, sources said.
Delimitation exercise was carried out on the basis of the latest census with an overall view that the population per Assembly seat is in the same range and to identify reserved seats of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The recommendations of 2002 delimitation commission were approved by the President in 2008.
Both the main political parties are unsure of what will be the outcome of elections in the seats where boundaries have been re-drawn due to demographic and voter profile changes, with respect to caste, following and religion.
In the 2007 elections, more than 20 seats were won or lost by the margin of less than 5,000 votes.
"If the parties like the SP, LJP, JD (U) are terming themselves as secular, to prove that they are truly so they should refrain from doing things which harm secular forces," Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.
He however, added that the voters of Gujarat have always been comfortable with two party system.
BJP spokesperson Jagdish Bhavsar also expressed confidence that his party will not face any problem due to GPP and Shiv Sena.
"Voters here are intelligent and have in the past chosen the best available options. Earlier also, BJP had faced such a situation. I don't think that this time there would be much deviation from that trend," Bhavsar said.
"The Assembly elections will be a keenly fought contest where margin of victory remains narrow. In such circumstances if candidates of other parties fetch 1,000 to 10,000 votes, then they can spoil the chances of the winning candidates and results will be unexpected," a Congress leader said.
"It had happened in 2002 when NCP contested against Congress. Therefore, the Congress party had to announce a tie-up with NCP in Gujarat in the 2007 elections even though NCP had no presence in the state," the leader added.