In Gujarat, BJP seems to have an edge
The state goes to the polls in December. Two surveys indicate that the BJP will return to power with a comfortable majorityeditorials Updated: Oct 26, 2017 10:51 IST
Gujarat, the state that heralded the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rise to power and dominance – the party now governs, by itself, or with allies, 18 states – and which also gave the country the strongest prime minister it has seen in at least 30 years, goes to the polls on December 9 and 14. All elections are important, but this one is especially so.
The BJP has been in power in the state for 22 years, but this is the first election it will be fighting in 15 years without Narendra Modi as the incumbent chief minister. As things stand, though, that should be the least of the party’s concerns. Since 2014, when Modi moved to New Delhi, the state has seen a protest by the prosperous Patidar community seeking quotas in jobs, a counter-protest by other backward classes against such quotas for the Patels, and a Dalit movement. It has also seen a good showing by the Congress in local body polls in 2015. Last year, the BJP had to replace Anandiben Patel as chief minister with Vijay Rupani.
There’s more. The move to the Goods and Services Tax regime has not been smooth and textile manufacturers and diamond merchants – both concentrated in the Western state – have had reason for complaint. And the slowdown in the economy is sure to have caused concern among Gujaratis, who are widely renowned for their business acumen and commercial bent of mind.
Together, these would seem to suggest that the BJP has a fight on its hands. Two surveys of the state, one done in August and the other this month, however, indicate that the party will return to power with a comfortable majority. That’s entirely possible. Rupani isn’t as popular as Modi but he is still more popular in the state than any of the local or national Congress leaders. An alliance of the various groups opposed to the BJP seems unlikely because of their own differences. It is clear that Modi, hugely popular in Gujarat, will be his party’s lead campaigner. Party president Amit Shah too is from the state. And in recent weeks, the central government has done its bit to address issues related to GST and announced a big-ticket infra project and a recapitalisation plan for banks. Organisationally too, the BJP in Gujarat appears to be far stronger than the Congress.
There’s also the question of belief. The BJP seems convinced that it can win. That might make all the difference, not just in this election, but through next year, when several important states go to the polls.