Riding on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s high-octane acrimonious poll campaigning and his predominant popularity across Gujarat, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to retain the coastal state for the sixth consecutive time, since 1995.
While the Congress managed an improvement in the vote share, it failed to make a comeback in the state, especially after claiming political green shoots. In the 2012 Assembly elections, the BJP had won 115 seats while the Congress emerged victorious in 61 seats.
While the saffron party managed to retain PM Modi’s home turf, its continued drop in vote share, which was believed to be a result of anti-incumbancy, distress among businessmen and farmers, and the absence of Modi since 2014, was something already foresighted by the party and PM Modi.
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While BJP moves ahead to take its rule in Gujarat past 22 years, let’s take a look at some of the factors which seem to have helped the BJP manage to hold faith of Gujarat’s people:
PM Modi’s dynamic poll campaigning
Soon after PM Modi left for Delhi in 2014, Gujarat dipped into a turbulent phase, with several agitations by Dalits, OBCs and Patidars.
After 2014, the following three years have witnessed two chief ministers – Anandiben and Vijay Rupani. Rupani does not have the same kind of aura as that of Modi. Surely PM Modi is being missed in his home state.
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PM Modi’s 36 power-packed election rallies, in which he covered over 28,000 km including rides on seaplane and Ro-Ro ferry, was a clear indication that he is well aware of the anti-incumbency factor overriding in the state.
His public addresses across the state, replete with emotional appeals, elucidation of his government’s works in the state, and poll promises focusing on development, somewhere seem to have convinced the voters to maintain their faith on the saffron party.
Damage control in Saurashtra, Mehsana
Ahead of the elections, it was believed that the influential Patidar community, which accounts for around 12 per cent of the state’s population, could prove to be the ‘X factor’ in the polls in which Hardik pledged support to the Congress and appealed to people to “uproot the BJP” this time.
The Patidars have been unhappy with the BJP government in the state over their demand of quota. However, it seems that the BJP has somehow managed to do the damage control, and retain its vote share in the Patidar community.
Surprisingly, of the 39 Patel-dominated seats, BJP won 21 seats while Congress bagged 18 seats.
This seems evident as BJP managed to retain the Mehsana seat – which is referred to as the origin point of the Patidar agitation led by Hardik Patel, which took place in August 2015.
Also, the saffron party emerged victorious in Saurashtra, which has a considerable population of Dalits and Patidars.
Faith of trader community in Ahmedabad, Surat
Also, it was believed that the trader community, which is focused in Surat and Ahmedabad, was in distress following demonetisation and the rollout of Goods and Services Tax (GST). However, results show that BJP emerged victorious in both places, claiming 12 seats in Surat.
Seeing the distress among the trader community, the GST Council brought changes in the rates, bringing the building material from the 28 per cent category to the 18 per cent slab.
While the changes were welcomed by traders, they urged the Centre to “improve filing services” on war footing. If not addressed, their ire may adversely affect the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Water projects, loan interest waiver helped in wooing farmers
In his election rallies, PM Modi reiterated the work he had done in the state, especially for farmers, as the chief minister. He also spoke about Narmada water reaching Saurashtra and how it has helped people.
The inauguration of the Sardar Sarovar Dam by PM Modi may have also raised hopes among farmers who have been reeling under severe drought, and consequent debts.
Following protests by farmers, the state government announced a MSP of Rs 900 per 20 kg right before the elections and also waived off interest on loans up to Rs 3 lakh.