With the assembly elections over a month away, politics is boiling up to the peak temperature in the state of Gujarat – the state which has proved to be decisive for Indian Prime Minister in 2014, and will again prove the same in 2019. With some political logical analysis, let’s figure out who seems to have the upper hand for the December elections.
It was the grandiose result of Gujarat state elections in 2012, that set the outrageous tone of the general elections in 2014. It was the three consecutive victories in the state of Gujarat, that has led Narendra Modi to pave his way from being a CM to PM of the Republic of India. Modi claimed his prominent position in BJP, from out of nowhere after his popularity in the state of Gujarat and ultimately emerged as the leader of the nation. We all know about then-tallest leader of BJP, L K Advani, who was strongly against the rise and eminence of Modi, but even such a BJP top-gun was ignored. Why? Because it was Gujarat’s CM Modi. That was three years ago, and with time, history has moved on to a whole new tangent.
Looking back in 2012, Congress was the ruling party at the helm of national affairs and it was facing very serious charges of stagnancy and corruption. The party had lost confidence in itself and voters was desperately waiting for Congress to depart. Badly bruised with criticism, the ruling party had little to defend against BJP which had survived the 2009 defeat. BJP then had new emerging leaders with new equations, promises and energy – and then they had Modi with the merry Gujarati picture of prosperity, richness and progress. That is what had drawn the people of India, especially the youth – to siege change and overflow votes for the saffron party. But things have changed now. The BJP is the one who has to answer and one cannot blindfold over the growing perception – that Modi made tall promises but has failed to deliver.
It is once again, election season in Gujarat and it is once again the time which will decide Modi’s political future and his steep in the 2019 general elections – history always repeats. Considering the fact that two of the most powerful positions at national level – the Prime Minister and the President of BJP which is the most prominent political party as of now – are occupied by Gujarati men; Gujarat elections should be a cakewalk for BJP. Sure, BJP holds its polls in Gujarat, but there seems to be a change in the air – a change that cannot be unseen.
Since a couple of months, the ‘myth’ about Modi being invincible seems to be fading away, the confident body language has transitioned to defensive, and weariness can be seen largely on the face of Modi, and hence on the face of BJP. In contrast to that, Congress VP Rahul Gandhi seems to be having a definite spring of energy, he is talking and people are listening to him. He has far moved ahead from being the butt of jokes, his approach towards politics is changing and Congress is perhaps gaining some traction. Loosing flamboyance on one side, gaining heed on the other – BJP is worried.
About Gujarat, situations have churned up and tables have turned. The high-claimed Gujarat model of development has failed to meet its aspiration – at least for some, and that matters. The state government is continuously announcing schemes and projects to woo the voters, but there seems to be a major mismatch with people’s satisfaction. A lot of communities and groups have fallen off the curve – like the Patidar community which holds 14% votes and is politically and economically the strongest group in Gujarat. Why are they so against BJP? It is simple – the community showed immense political patriotism towards BJP, and they expected development. They gained from political patronage, but majority of them were still struggling for employment and that is why they demanded special reservations. The situation was mishandled by the state government when they decided to use an iron hand to control the protests – and that is how the diehard BJP supporter community became rebellious against the same party, under the leadership of Hardik Patel.
Next up is the Kshatriya community led by Alpesh Thakor – who has stood up against the menace of illicit liquor in Gujarat, that has ruined his community the most. Thakor has developed a strong network in the state, and he has joined the Congress party. With support from Hardik Patel and Alpesh Thakor, Congress party has the chances of beating the ‘invincible’. There is room for more, BJP has always ignored the Dalit votes and adding to it are the incidents of Dalit beatings and the coldness of the state government towards the community. Jignesh Mevani, a Dalit leader has decided to stand up against it – now this may not look significant to the BJP but with Patel and Thakor – boy they have some momentum.
Apart from communities, there is general sense of dismay in the state because of the fallen economic status and sluggish businesses – in the once flourishing state of Gujarat; thanks to the mindless implementation of demonetisation and GST that alienated the business community. Surat business group, once strong supporters of BJP, conducted the biggest trader rally against governing politics. Every little thing matters. And Modi cannot come back to Gujarat as the CM, so he has Vijay Rupani for the reign of the state – a failed leader with no significance of his own. There are no reasons to vote for Rupani, as an individual leader, unlike it was for Modi.
No doubt that BJP and Modi still possess thick chances of winning the polls and they still have the loyal homeland followers – but on the other hand, there is clear unease among the voters. For Modi, he knows that he has gained momentum in 2014 on national level – only because of Gujarat victory. And he knows that the December elections will forecast his 2019 results. If at all Modi loses – his strongest bastion, his most formidable fort, his home turf, well then the herald of a new beginning will be unstoppable. For all reasons, Gujarat was, is and will be the turning point for Modi’s political career. If BJP wins this election, it will comfortably win 2019; if not, a bleak future will await. No wonder why the Prime Minister is running to Gujarat every other day. Not that he has lost the upper hand yet. But yes, he is desperate.