Gujarat Elections: BJP’s fatigue test; EC decries urban vote dip

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, December 3: On a day electioneering finally came to an end for Gujarat Assembly elections, the Election Commission came out with an unusual lament against sharp dip in the urban voters’ turnout in the state. The context may become a little clearer in the backdrop of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party scraping through the half way mark in the last Assembly elections solely on account of winning most of the seats at the urban centres, which included Surat.

The Assembly constituencies in Surat, which has eight seats, recorded voters’ turnouts dip in the range of about four per cent to about seven per cent, which is significant. The low voters’ turnout surely indicate lesser interest of the electorate in the Assembly election in the urban centres. There can be no immediate conclusion of the lower voters’ turnout in the urban centres, for there had been mixed outcomes in the past elections in other states.

But the BJP may have to worry more, for the dip in the voters in the party’s bastion has come despite electioneering blitzkrieg, which was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who spent most of his time in the last two months in Gujarat to build the campaign for the party. Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah also mostly camped in Gujarat. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was extensively made to campaign in Gujarat, as the BJP sought to counter the appeal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) among the migrant workers, who on the lines of Delhi, were seen showing interest in the Arvind Kejriwal-led outfit.

It is worthwhile to note that the Gujarat elections have been without any major plank on either side of the fence building any wave. The BJP has a fatigue factor to bear, for being in power for past 27 years. The BJP also has another challenge on the hand to keep the cadre highly mobilized after the party denied tickets to 40 sitting MLAs and asked some of the prominent faces of the party to take an early retirement. The BJP campaign was also heavily dependent on Modi, as the incumbent Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel was seen with lacking in the popular appeal across the state.

While the urban centres in the first phase of polling have reported sharp dip, which the Election Commission sought to make a general trend by making a comparison with Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, the rural voters’ turnout remained strong, which had strongly supported Congress in the 2017 Assembly elections in Gujarat. Incidentally, the media limelight was on the BJP and somewhat on the AAP, and Congress’ door to door campaign was largely ignored by the mainstream media. The polling in the second phase for the Gujarat on Monday would further shed light on the trend of the BJP’s urban bastions losing zeal in coming to the polling booths.

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