Gujarat polls: BJP blitzkrieg amid anti-incumbency, AAP heat

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, November 30: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had survived the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections solely on account of Prime Minister Narendra Modi playing the ‘Gujarati Asmita’ card. The BJP was without a narrative in the last elections, and same stays now as the people gear up to vote in the first phase of the polling on Thursday on 89 Assembly constituencies.

Modi has spent more than a month now in Gujarat, while attending to his responsibilities in New Delhi and visiting a few places in the country. Modi had already spent 11 days in Gujarat in October before the Morbi Bridge collapse jolted the BJP leaders out of their luxurious electoral cruise in the state elections. Since the mishap, Modi has labored more than what he did five years ago, while the Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah turned his focus on marshalling the cadre.

Gujarat has a large number of migrants who work in the textile mills, pharmaceutical companies and the other industrial bases. The migrants had apparently been at the receiving ends when Modi had announced the imposition of the national lockdown with four-hour notice with his trademark television address at 8 pm. The migrants, according to the BJP insiders, in the big urban centres are flocking to the AAP, taking the leaf out of their relations with the ruling party in Delhi. If this plays out, the AAP may be harming the BJP than Congress. This explains slogging by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who played the Hindutva card on the Ram Temple plank, addressing public meetings and holding the roadshows.

In line with the new normal of the BJP hogging all the limelight in the media, print and television, campaigns of the AAP and Congress were not seen to be high-octane. Congress, which remains a formidable force in the rural Gujarat and also among the Muslims, tribals and the scheduled castes, adopted the low-key campaign strategy and worked hard to avoid ‘self-goal’. But Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge ended up conceding a self-goal by allegedly calling Modi a ‘Ravan’. Congress sought to cover up for the strategic lapse by playing the Dalit card of Kharge. It is to be seen if ‘Ravan’ barb of Kharge will revive Modi’s ‘Gujarati Asmita’ card in the Gujarat elections.

Before the dates for the Assembly elections were announced by the Election Commission, Karnataka had pipped Gujarat to take the second spot in the GST collections in the country after Maharashtra. The Modi government sought to bring the development model in the focus in Gujarat by hosting the Defence Expo in Gandhinagar, while a few big ticket projects came off ahead of the EC announcement of the polls.

Gujarat has seen a bipolar politics so far, and the BJP has been the principal beneficiary of the decline of Congress. However, the opposition party had improved the east tally to 77 in the 2017 elections along with the vote share. The BJP tally had come down to 99 from 111 in the 2012 state polls.

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