GVL Narasimha Rao
The Congress party and its proxies may have succeeded in unleashing a vicious campaign in the media against the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi but are certain to face a shocking defeat when the state goes to polls later this year. A statewide opinion poll undertaken by the popular news website LensOnNews.com predicts a landslide victory for Narendra Modi-led BJP in the forthcoming Gujarat assembly polls.
The poll predicts that the BJP will win the highest ever tally of 127 to 138 seats (compared to 117 in 2007 and 127 in 2002) in the 182-seat assembly, while the Congress’ tally is likely to plunge to between 36 and 46 (as against 59 seats in the last election).
While a victory in Gujarat elections for the Modi-led BJP is a foregone conclusion, it is the scale of the projected victory that would astound many. So, what are the factors that are likely to deliver the biggest ever mandate for Narendra Modi in Gujarat. It is development, development and development.
Voters belonging to all regions, urban and rural areas, castes, age groups, occupational groups and political loyalties are unanimous in giving credit to Narendra Modi for the unprecedented growth in the last five years. Unlike in 2002 and 2007, when there were some regional variations in voting patterns, this year’s election is likely to witness a pro-incumbency wave across all regions.
Modi’s rivals have tried to create and exploit fault lines in the caste mosaic of the state by organizing caste Sammelans to stoke anti-Modi feelings among certain castes. Evidently, these are not working. People of Gujarat enjoying the fruits of development aren’t impressed by their efforts aimed at creating caste divisions to bolster their political project in Gujarat. Even as Patels continue to back the BJP as strongly as before –foiling attempts to pit numerically strong Leuva Patels against Kadwa Patels– voters across all castes are veering towards the BJP mainly on account of state government’s track record. Even strong supporters of Congress party concede that the state has witnessed rapid progress and want continuation of Narendra Modi’s rule in Gujarat. Development successes have a magnetic appeal and their reach has transcended caste and community barriers.
The LensOnNews poll shows that the report card of Gujarat government is impressive in all fronts: sixty-nine per cent of those polled say that the rural areas have witnessed development in the last five years; 79 per cent report that the state has progressed in industrialization; and 75 per cent credit the Gujarat government for job creation. Such widespread approval for the state government’s achievements has had a ripple effect and has produced a positive political environment for the BJP in the state elections.
In stark contrast, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre presents a dismal picture. People of Gujarat blame the central government squarely for the problems of price rise and corruption which are dominating concerns of voters all over the country. Sixty-one per cent hold the Centre to blame for both corruption and price rise, while a much smaller number (22 and 24 per cent respectively) lay the blame on the state government for these maladies. The poor performance of the central government has further accentuated the state government’s positive assessment and has diminished Congress party’s appeal to the state’s electorate.
Many may believe that the overwhelmingly favourable electoral situation in Gujarat is a public reaction to the desperate attempts of the Congress party and its proxies to implicate Narendra Modi in a host of riot cases. I would tend to disagree. From all interactions I have had with people, the support for Modi-led BJP in elections is primarily due to a rational assessment of his government’s performance. Emotional issues have so far not influenced the voting patterns in the state.
But in the course of election campaign, the ongoing riot cases in courts would be raised both by the BJP and the Congress. When Narendra Modi hits out at rivals for targeting him to hurt Gujarat’s progress, believe you me, even the Congress supporters would get swayed. One can safely assume that he would be liberally helped in this effort by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. When the Congress realises that it has a lost case in Gujarat, it would try to occupy a “moral high ground” by launching a verbal offensive against Modi and preaching “secular” lessons. What else can mother-son duo say in their campaigns to seek votes in Gujarat? There would be no takers if they target Modi over his development record and praise their own at the Centre!!
The Gujarat election results would have far reaching consequences for national politics. After the Congress party’s shock defeats in a series of elections, the countdown for the UPA government at the Centre would begin soon after Congress party’s humiliating defeat in Gujarat assembly elections. On the other hand, with yet another spectacular win in Gujarat, Narendra Modi would loom large on the national stage and would emerge as the center of attraction in national politics. The coming year would be eventful in national politics and Gujarat elections would provide the spur and spark in shaping the future of Indian politics.
(The writer is a leading Psephologist and Political Analyst)