All guns on fire; BJP faces migrants, rural tests in Gujarat

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, November 25: In about a week, people in Gujarat will vote in the first of the Assembly elections in 89 Assembly constituencies. The incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leaning on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cash in on the emotional card of the ‘Gujarati Asmita’, while Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah is slogging to micro-manage the elections.

While the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was the principal target of the BJP in the early phases of the electioneering, the BJP changed the gears to turn the heat on Congress, which as part of a strategy is banking on a low-key election campaign, with thrust on the people connect. The BJP insiders stated that the party has to win over the migrants, who on the lines of Delhi, seem attracted to the AAP.

“The workers in the factories and mills seem to be flocking to the AAP meeting in Gujarat. This is an issue, which is being countered by fielding the likes of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to appeal to them on the larger nationalist plank,” said a senior BJP functionary. Several constituencies in the first phase of polling in Gujarat have strong presence of the migrants, who may not connect with the ‘Gujarati Asmita’ card of the BJP, added the party functionary. However, the BJP leaders claimed that the migrants are now coming back to the BJP after their initial attractions to the AAP.

Surat and the other textile hubs of Gujarat, besides the manufacturing centres have a strong presence of the migrant voters. The BJP leaders also maintained that not all migrant workers in Gujarat are voters in the state, as many of them constitute the floating population. But the AAP in Delhi had been known to have taken an unassailable lead over the rivals by consolidating the support base among the migrants in the national capital.

While former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has gone back to lead his ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in Madhya Pradesh, the party leaders maintained that the low-key campaign, with focus on people to people connect is part of a strategy. The Congress leaders are hopeful that rural Gujarat, tribal and Dalit, besides the Muslims, will strongly support the party in the Assembly elections. This appears to be resonating with the BJP changing gears to step up attack on Congress in the last few days by raising the ‘dynasty, corruption, family’ barbs against the opposition party.

The BJP is aiming to beat the high of 127 Assembly seats in 2002, with Modi push in the electioneering. But the BJP has since been losing the strength in the state Assembly, with the tally coming down to 99 in the 2017 Assembly elections. The BJP has sought to shore up its prospects by fielding 10 former Congress MLAs. Congress on the other hand will be hoping that the party regains the touch of 1985 when it had bagged 149 seats. Gujarat Assembly has a total of 182 seats.

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