Is there a (Narendra) Modi wave sweeping Gujarat as the chief minister and his coterie both in the state and at the Centre would want everyone to believe, or is it hype?
Will his image and histrionics add up to the numbers? And can the controversial CM translate into votes the support projected by crowds at his Gaurav Yatra rallies?
With the focus now shifting to Gujarat following the successful completion of the Jammu and Kashmir elections, these questions will be asked many times over and it appears that the answers may not necessarily endorse the perception which has been created -- the ground realities suggest otherwise.
While a lot of trouble has been taken to project Modi as the BJP’s new mascot and the best chief minister, a large number of his party colleagues do not think he has the ability and the wherewithal to clinch the polls for the BJP.
The upper castes which had stood by the party in 1998 when Keshubhai Patel had led the BJP to victory, do not seem to be as pro-active as they were in the previous polls. The Congress too has gained confidence after its showing in the J&K polls. And with Shankarsinh Vaghela pre-empting the attempts of Modi and co. to project the Opposition as anti Hindu, all does not seem to be going well for the saffron party.
The BJP in the past had won when it projected itself as pro-Hindu and the Congress as pro-Muslim. This time, due to the cautious approach of the Congress, Modi has been unable to paint it as a party opposed to Hindus.
The BJP won 117 seats in the last polls securing 44.81 per cent votes compared to the Congress' 35.28 per cent and 53 seats. At that time, Vaghela’s All India Rashtriya Janata Party (AIRJP), won four seats but 12.57 per cent votes.
This happened when there was a BJP wave due to what was perceived as injustice meted out to Keshubhai Patel. The upper castes voted for the party. But even then, if one adds up the voting percentage of Congress and AIRJP, which has since merged with the Congress, the entire complexion would appear different.
A projected figure on district/seat basis on the 1998 figures if Congress and RJP are shown as one entity would give them 94 seats as against 81 for the BJP.