Three factors that helped BJP buck anti-incumbency in Gujarat
Gujarat assembly election results 2017: Among other things the charisma and personal appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have helped the BJPUpdated: Dec 20, 2017 08:46 IST
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Extensive ground-level coordination. A responsive government that was relatively free of controversy. And, above all, the charisma and personal appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi: A troika of these factors helped the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) buck anti-incumbency in the closest election Gujarat has seen in years.
Modi’s appeal was seen to be intact in urban areas, where the BJP scored massive victories over the Congress and won 46 of the 56 seats. In all, the saffron party won 99 of the 182 seats and the Congress 77.
“Urban voters still feel very strong emotional connect with Narendrabhai. This is what the result tells today,’’ said political analyst Shirish Kashikar. The proof of that appeal was seen especially in the industrial belt of Surat, where despite discontent over the Goods and Services Tax and Patidar quota protests, the BJP won 15 of 16 seats.
Modi, who travelled across the state extensively and covered about 30,000 kilometers, was also successful in invoking Gujarati pride during the latter half of the campaign. “Congress did a self -goal through senior leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s `neech’ comment against the PM’’, Kashikar opined.
Functionaries of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh who were part of the campaign said Modi’s administrative skills and his popularity still retained a connect with the Gujarat voter.
Another factor that likely worked in the BJP’s favour was the relatively calm governance in the last 1.5 years, after a bumpy two years that saw waves of violent protests by the Patidars and Dalits.
“Though it was a short span, but the leadership of chief minister Vijay Rupani and deputy chief minister Nitin Patel gave the BJP a much-needed stable period after the party witnessed challenges in social unrest and losses in local bodies’’, said political analyst Jwalant Chhaya. “This also remained a period with no corruption charges against the government.”
Senior party leaders who refused to be named also said the alacrity the government showed in addressing issues, whether it was the concerns of traders over GST or the grievances of the Dalits and the Patidars, helped it project itself as an administration that had its ears to the ground. Moreover, the superior booth-level coordination – BJP chief Amit Shah had stitched together a multi-layered system – helped the well-organised BJP edge out the Congress, which had a weak presence on the ground.
“Many people, especially Delhi-based media said that the party will lose out on the Patidar vote, there has been some loss, but the community still believes in the BJP,” a party functionary said. Many traders in Surat told Hindustan Times that the changes brought to GST rates and filing systems had convinced them to vote for the BJP.
Saffron party leaders dismissed the suggestion the party was facing a stiff challenge from younger leaders such as OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and Patidar leader Hardik Patel.
“There is sense of pride in the Gujarati people, the state has better indices than most and the credit goes to the BJP’s administration. There might be discontent in some pockets, but there is no large scale anger or disenchantment with the government Monday’s results have shown,” an RSS functionary in Ahmedabad said.
Other experts pointed out that despite the lower seat share, the BJP’s sixth straight term in the state was itself impressive.“In my opinion it is a historic outcome, both in terms of the campaign and the victory,” said Heeraman Tiwari of the Centre For Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
First Published: Dec 19, 2017 13:27 IST