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Gujarat poll verdict a warning bell for BJP; Cong fails to tap people's anger: Analysts

The BJP bagged just seven more than the magic figure of 92, while the Congress and its allies lifted 80 seats, only 12 short of a simple majority.

Reported by: PTI, Ahmedabad [ Published on: December 19, 2017 20:24 IST ]
Gujarat poll verdict a warning bell for BJP; Cong fails to
Gujarat poll verdict a warning bell for BJP; Cong fails to tap people's anger: Analysts

Although the BJP scraped through to an election victory in Gujarat despite a stiff challenge posed by a resurgent Congress, political observers feel that the Assembly poll outcome has sounded a "warning bell" for the BJP on a host of issues. 

They also feel that though the election saw Congress president Rahul Gandhi emerging as "a matured leader", the opposition party lost a "golden chance" to convert people's anger against the BJP into an electoral victory. 

The Gujarat election was a battle of prestige for the BJP given that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah hail from the state. The two leaders personally led a high-pitched campaign to check Gandhi making inroads into the state, coinciding with his elevation as the party chief. 

Although the saffron camp managed to win 99 seats in the 182-member assembly, its tally dipped from 115 in the last elections, much lower than the 150-plus seats it had hoped for. 

The BJP bagged just seven more than the magic figure of 92, while the Congress and its allies lifted 80 seats, only 12 short of a simple majority. 

According to analysts, the outcome indicated that there was a tide against the BJP in Gujarat. 

"People of Gujarat have put the BJP on notice. The message is clear that it cannot take people for granted," political analyst Ghanshyam Shah told PTI.

Although winning the elections was perceived to be not an uphill task for the BJP, this time there were several key factors at play that were complicated as compared to the previous elections. 

The state elections were held here after three consecutive years of deficient rains that caused widespread distress among the rural populace, economic slowdown due to demonetisation and GST and the anti-incumbency after 22 years of the BJP rule. 

Lack of credible leaders having a mass appeal in the BJP after Modi's shift to the Centre as prime minister was also a major reason that worked against the party. 

Following the unrest by the Patidar agitation in 2015 and the Dalit community's protest last year after the Una flogging incident, the party felt that the change of guard was necessary in the state and Vijay Rupani was made the chief minister in place of Anandiben Patel in August last year, more than a year before the state went to polls. 

Political observers, however, feel that the Congress failed to fully use the political situation to its benefit in the elections. 

"Despite people's dissatisfaction, the Congress could not convert the golden chance to its benefit as it lacked a credible face," Shah said. 

The results showed that while the BJP maintained its sway over the urban voters it fared poorly in rural pockets. 

Still, many feel that to a great extent it was Modi's charisma that saved the day for the BJP. 

"Economic performance of the government was overshadowed in urban areas by 'Gujarati asmita' (pride) and charisma of Narendra Modi, who alone could pull this elections for the BJP," Shah said. 

Hari Desai, another analyst, said he saw the outcome as having sounded a "warning bell" for the BJP and Congress president Rahul Gandhi emerging as a "very mature leader".

"This surely is a warning bell for the BJP and its performance in the state. The party has been brought down to the ground. They (BJP) won the election not on development, but on emotional appeal," Desai said. 

"The other thing that comes out of this election is that Congress has revived itself in Gujarat. Rahul Gandhi has emerged as a very mature leader. They (the BJP) can no longer ignore him," Desai said. 

Sociologist Gaurang Jani said the Gujarat election has broken many myths on the caste system in the state.

"This verdict has shown that the caste system is as prevalent in Gujarat as it is in any other state of the country. Earlier, the possibility was that the caste preferences were overshadowed by the Hindutva influence," Jani, a professor of sociology of Gujarat University, said. 

"In the rural areas, the caste factor has played a decisive role as it is seen in the gains made by the Congress party. While in urban areas Hinduvta has eclipsed the caste factor and the BJP has won," he said, referring to the role played by three caste leaders -- Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor -- in the polls. 

"The results also show that urban middle class and the BJP are inseparable. Ideology of the BJP is the main factor attracting the urban middle class and urban upper-middle class appeared to be the trend setters," he said.

Jani also feels that the minorities and women have not got enough representation in the Assembly. 

"Just three Muslims and 13 women candidates have been elected. This shows that every section is not properly represented in the elections," he said. 

"The challenge for the BJP will be to perform and keep an edge over rivals as people have sounded out a warning," Jani said. standoff and yet to open it.

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