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Gujarat elections: Congress’ caste politics will hurt it, but help us, says BJP’s top brass

Amit Shah said Gujarat election results would go beyond the predictions of psephologists and election surveys with BJP notching up a huge victory.

assembly elections Updated: Dec 09, 2017 07:45 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Gujarat elections,Gujarat election 2017,Gujarat
A child dressed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the PM’s ‘Gujarat Vikas Rally’ in Surat.(PTI File Photo)

The Congress’s attempts at caste polarisation in Gujarat will help the BJP garner the votes of a “rival rainbow coalition” of other backward communities and a huge chunk of Patidars, top campaign managers of the ruling party said on the eve of the first round of polling on Saturday.

Early on Friday, party president Amit Shah sat down with state election in-charge and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley and campaign manager Bhupendra Yadav to review the election preparedness for the first round. And all were satisfied with reports from the ground which indicated that the BJP was comfortably poised in the 89 seats that go to polls on December 9.

Talking to the Hindustan Times, Shah said that Gujarat election results would go beyond the predictions of psephologists and election surveys with BJP notching up a huge victory. The BJP president has been leading the campaign Gujarat for the past two and a half months.

Jaitley too said the BJP held the edge over its main rival, the Congress.

“The Congress is self-deceiving itself that caste polarisation will help it. On the contrary, hardcore caste campaign will give birth to a rival rainbow coalition,” he said, referring to the opposition party’s aggressive wooing of the Patidar community which is demanding quota in government jobs and colleges.

A section of the Patidar community – which forms 12% of the state’s 4.33-crore electorate – led by Hardik Patel has pledged support to the Congress, which is seeking to regain power in the state after 22 years. Other local leaders such as Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani are also backing the Congress.

However, BJP leaders believe that the consolidation of other backward castes – who are apprehensive that any quota for the Patidars could take away their benefits – may tilt the election in favour of the ruling party. The percentage of OBC votes is more than 20%.

Dismissing any threat to the BJP from the Patidar community, Jaitley said: “The majority of Patidars will continue to support the BJP. The community has a sizeable contribution to the socio-economic development of Gujarat. And they know the BJP’s contribution in creating a significant leadership from the Patidar community.”

Rajya Sabha MP Bhupendra Yadav, who has been parked in Gujarat for four months now, is satisfied with the party’s campaign and believes that the caste polarisation campaign of Congress will not yield electoral dividend.

“The Congress will be defeated in this attempt to divide Gujarat on caste lines as 60 per cent of the Patidar community is still a supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP,” he said.

BJP campaign managers said there could be a positive swing of 6 to 9 per cent for the party in the hustings.

With the Congress mounting a targeted campaign led by president-designate Rahul Gandhi, BJP leaders led by Modi and Shah are leaving no stone unturned in order to push the BJP numbers.

Modi will address 15 election rallies till December 11 and Shah will hold 20 election meetings in the state before the last phase of voting on December 14.

The party may be concerned about Saurashtra due to farmer distress but believes that it will put up a good show in north Gujarat. The party expects some 60 out of 89 seats in the first round and even a better performance in the last phase.

The BJP is helped by the fact that nearly 60 seats out of a total of 182 seats are purely urban with the Patidar community missing in 28 out of 89 seats that go to poll on December 9.

Even the tribal seats of south Gujarat have a mixed urban population due to rapid industrialisation.

During election meetings on Thursday and Friday, BJP leaders saw the presence of communities which had never attached themselves to the party in the past, party leaders said.

First Published: Dec 09, 2017 07:32 IST