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Gujarat polls: Rahul Gandhi is not the change voters are looking for

The resentment against the BJP will not directly benefit the Congress, and that’s the truth in Gujarat

opinion Updated: Nov 14, 2017 16:09 IST
Rahul Gandhi,Gujarat,BJP
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi meeting supporters at a public meeting, Patan, Gujarat, November 13(PTI)

The decks cannot be loaded more heavily against the BJP in the Gujarat polls (December 9 to 14). Encumbered with 22 years of anti-incumbency, the party faces the much-hyped consolidation of the Patidar-OBC-Dalit voters. As if this was not enough, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi seems to be peaking at the right time and one can sense the change in mood on social media as the followers are catching up with trolls.

A complex model of the GST followed demonetisation to the horror of the dominant trading community in the state. And the party is yet to churn out an acceptable face in place of Narendra Modi as the two chief ministers in three years failed to make any substantive impact on the masses.

The Patidar movement under Hardik Patel literally shook the BJP to the core. This otherwise financially-sound community has stood behind the party like a rock for the past two decades. The taken-for-granted support base challenging the party on an issue which seemed non-existent till recently has caught its leaders unawares.

Also this is going to be a straight contest, like a Gujarat version of the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar. Every other electoral player/factor has joined forces with the Congress to bring down the BJP. It is the BJP versus the rest.

So is this the end of the dream run for the BJP in Gujarat?

The stakes are high. The BJP getting a drubbing in Modi’s home state will boost the Opposition and suddenly the BJP’s victory in the 2019 general elections, which for now seems to be a forgone conclusion, will be an uphill task.

Then why is it that nearly all opinion polls are predicting a BJP victory? They say that they BJP will lose ground, the Congress will gain votes and seats, but nevertheless the BJP will win, thanks to Amit Shah’s unbeatable seat arithmetic to contradictions in the combined Opposition.

But what they seem to be missing or unwilling to accept is that the voters yearning for change are not ready to accept Rahul Gandhi as that face of change.

This fact is reflected in Patel’s dilemma. He is vocal about his loathing for the BJP — he even talks about decimating the party in Gujarat. But he keeps on postponing the date for joining hands with the Congress. This could be because he has correctly sensed the mood in the community. To the acute predicament of the 23-year-old leader, anger against the BJP and closing ranks with the Congress are two different things for the Patidars.

Can Gandhi afford to take another loss? He has led the Congress from one defeat to another.

Signs are far from encouraging in Himachal Pradesh, which went to polls on November 9. Can Gandhi survive if the party loses these two election and still go ahead with his coronation as the party president? Buoyant by the anti-BJP wave in Gujarat he seems to have put this on hold, hoping to ascend the throne in a victorious mood. Will this be still possible? The polls in Gujarat may turn out to be more about Gandhi and the Congress than Modi and the BJP.

Anupam Mishra is an Allahabad-based journalist

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Nov 14, 2017 16:09 IST