Gujarat has been a feather in BJP’s cap for more than two decades now. The Gujarat Development model was the pedestal on which 2014 election were largely fought. However, in recent past things haven’t been so rosy. The Congress is now attacking them on their home turf with their own modus operandi.
Here are some of the reasons why Gujarat is going to be a tough nut to crack for BJP in 2017:
1. Caste agitation against BJP
90% of the caste communities like Patidar community, Dalits and OBC groups, that had supported BJP in 2014, are less likely to do so for this year’s state elections.
In the few past months, Dalit and OSS (OBC, SC and ST) communities respectively have led anti-incumbency protests in the state. Undelivered promises, inefficiency in handling the Patidar agitation, lack of development in the irrigation facilities could be a few reasons the party might have to face the heat from various castes, who are looking for other options. Atleast 16% of the population in Gujarat is from the Patidar community and have been traditional supporters of BJP. The party had bagged a whopping 70% votes from the community. Withdrawal of their support could be a loss for the party in this year’s elections.
Young leaders like Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mewani and Alpesh Thakor who represent the majority of the caste vote bank seem to be voicing their support for the Congress. For instance, Hardik Patel, the face of Patidar community reservation, has openly voiced his support for the Congress party.
2. Congress’s full swing political activities in the state
Rahul Gandhi has started canvassing for the elections ahead of BJP and visited the latter’s stronghold Saurashtra. He has constantly attacked BJP by raising questions reflecting government’s failure to procure groundnut and cotton crops, two important cash crops of Gujarat. The farming community, mostly OBCs, have been protesting lack of crop procurement. Along with this, he questioned Modi government’s time and rate of GST.
People have largely supported the Congress’s social media campaign #VikasGandoThayoChe (development has gone berserk) by publishing real development figures, which contradict the BJP claims. The Congress party has garnered support from the anger of demonetization and GST along with major caste groups Dalits, OBCs and Patels; and Adivasis and Muslims.
The BJP is encouraging Nationalist Congress Party and Jan Vikalp to run in the elections independently, thus splitting Congress’s vote bank. While the mood in Gujarat is largely anti-BJP at the moment, some districts of south Gujarat like Valsad, Navsari and Surat support the party. Whether the otherwise dissent will translate into votes for Congress can only be ascertained on the Election Day.
The most adverse impact of demonetisation was possibly on the farm workers. Out of 24.7 million workers in Gujarat, almost 15.7 million are dependent on agriculture and displeased with demonetisation. Add to this, the Modi government’s containment of benefits under Minimum Support Price (MSP) to control inflation.
Small businesses are agitated due to GST and have protested along with trader groups. The dissent has risen so much that Modi who on 7th June took complete credit for GST at midnight in the Parliament; has now called it a joint initiative with the Congress.
4. Unfulfilled Promises and involvement in scams:
There are 14 cases of corruption against the Modi administration and an allegation of corruption against Jay Shah, BJP chief Amit Shah’s son. 4 out of 9 accused in the Naliya rape case and Kutch sex scam were BJP leaders. Sacking them has done little to affect public opinion.
Ahead of the Vibrant Gujarat summit, fixed pay and contractual workers protested the government’s pending motion for the abolition of fixed pay and uniformity in salary. The caste groups supported this protest as well. This could impact the votes of 10 lakh contractual workers and 4.5 lakh fixed pay workers in the state.
5. Lack of strong leadership:
After Modi became Prime Minister, the party has been unable to vote a strong CM for the state. The initially elected CM, Anandiben Patel, was removed due to charges of corruption. Saurashtra leader and current CM, Vijay Rupani, hasn’t been able to strongly lead and unite political forces. The state leadership is still an uncertain and weak ground.
People have protested the government’s inability to nurture development and failure to implement agrarian and employment policies.