An incisive analysis of Gujarat Elections, 2012—I
Dr JK Bajaj
THE Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), under the leadership of its young and dynamic Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, has won a famous victory in the recent Assembly Elections. It is not often that a party wins five consecutive elections and a Chief Minister wins three times in a row. The margins of victory have also been unusually impressive. Of 182 seats in the Gujarat Assembly, BJP won 121 seats in 1995, 117 in 1998, 127 in 2002, 117 in 2007 and has won 115 in 2012.
The margin of victory in this election, however, hides critical changes that have taken place in the support base of the party. BJP had gone into this election with serious dissensions within its ideological fraternity. Keshubhai Patel, one time Chief Minister of BJP, had revolted openly and contested on as many as 167 seats under the banner of his newly formed Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP). In addition to this open political competition offered by a former stalwart of BJP, the party also had to contend with the not-so-hidden disaffection among a large number of ideological kindred workers and organisation. GPP has won two seats, but affected the chances of BJP in several seats in every part of the state, especially in Saurashtra. BJP has also lost heavily in several constituencies of North Gujarat, where it had done very well in the previous elections. And, of the considerably large number seats that have been decided by narrow margins of less than 5000 in every part of the state, a disproportionately large number has gone against BJP. All this is probably a result of the dissensions within its own fraternity. The losses suffered by BJP in North Gujarat and Saurashtra have been made up to a large extent by the extraordinarily good showing of the party in the highly urbanised regions of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat.
To understand the full extent of the effects of these crucial changes in the support base of BJP, it is instructive to analyse the election data according to regions and subregions.
The analysis has obvious lessons for the BJP for future elections; it also has lessons for the competitors. But, before going into the detailed region and sub-region wise analysis of the election results, let us first describe some of the important factors that are supposed to have influenced these results: Large turnout, urbanisation and voting behaviour of the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and Muslims, etc. Overview of Factors Affecting the Results
Gujarat saw a massive turnout of voters in this election. Overall voting percentage was as high as 71.3 per cent compared to only 59.8 per cent in 2007. For most political observers, this election seemed to have significance beyond the state of Gujarat alone.
This perhaps led to large-scale interest and mobilisation of the voters in the state. The impact of this large turnout is however difficult to assess.
Gujarat is a highly urbanised state. Urban Ratio of the state according to the provisional figures of 2011 is 42.6 per cent compared to the national average of 31.2 per cent and compared to the state average of 37.4 per cent in 2001. Urban concentrations of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat, as we shall see, have voted massively in favour of BJP, wiping out the losses suffered by the party in North Gujarat and Saurashtra. But it must be remembered that urbanisation in Gujarat is widespread and not limited to only these pockets. According to the provisional data of 2011 census, urban ratio is above 40 per cent in as many as 8 districts of the state: Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad and Vadodara in Central Gujarat; Rajkot, Jamnagar, Porbandar and Bhavnagar in Saurashtra; and, Surat in South Gujarat. Kachchh also has a fairly high urban ratio of about 35 per cent. And there are another 5 districts with urban ratio between 30 and 40 per cent. Thus there is at least one substantial urban centre in every region of the state, excepting North Gujarat.
The largest urban concentrations are, of course, Ahmedabad and Surat. Of these, Surat has been growing the fastest; urban population of the district grew by 66 per cent during 2001-11; it had registered similarly high growth in the previous decade also.
Urban population of neighbouring Valsad and Bharuch has also been growing rapidly. Gandhinagar-Ahmedabad region, in comparison, has recorded modest growth of about 29 per cent during the last decade. Urban centres of Gujarat are mainly manufacturing centres. This is unlike in several other urban concentrations of the country, where service industry dominates. Therefore, the character of the urban population of Gujarat is likely to be different than that of the much talked about “aspirational” urban youth of several other parts of the country. This also needs to be kept in mind while analysing the role of urban areas in the victory of BJP.
Role of Muslims
There is much speculation about the role of Muslims in this election. It is perhaps true that many Muslims have voted in favour of the BJP; but it cannot be confirmed in any rigorous manner. The results do indicate that areas of Muslim concentration in many parts of the state have often gone against the BJP. Muslim presence in Gujarat is not very high; in 2001, they formed 9 per cent of the population. But, there are several taluks, where their share is much higher. Seats falling in such taluks have often gone to INC; but it is difficult to discern any pattern in it, there are also some areas of high Muslim presence that have gone in favour of BJP. In almost all cases, factors other than the share of Muslims seem to have proved more decisive. Below, we list some of the constituencies where Muslim factor may have been important.
Abdasa is the only seat that INC has won in Kachchh. Two taluks with the highest Muslim concentration in the district, Abdasa and Lakhpat, with Muslim share of 36 and 39 per cent, respectively, fall in this constituency. But Muslim share is high, though not as high as in these two, in several other taluks of Kachchh also; seats covering those taluks have gone in favour of BJP.
Muslims have a significant presence in Vadgam and Palanpur of Banaskantha taluks. These three are divided between Vadgam, Palanapur and Dhanera constituencies; all three of these have gone in favour of INC. In Patan, Sidhpur taluk has the highest Muslim presence of 22 per cent; Sidhpur is the only constituency of Patan that has gone in favour of INC. In Sabarkantha, Modasa taluk has significant Muslim presence of about 17 per cent; Modasa constituency has gone in favour of INC. But, INC has got 5 other seats also; BJP has won only one of the 7 seats in the district. Godhra in Panchmahals has the highest Muslim presence of about 16 per cent. Of 1.2 lakh Muslims in the district, 61 thousand are in Godhra taluk, almost all of them in Godhra town. The constituency comprises mainly of Godhra town; it has gone in favour of INC, though with a narrow margin of less than 3 thousand.
In Rajkot, Muslims have a high presence of 33 per cent in Wankaner and 21 per cent in Dhoraji taluks. Wankaner and Dhoraji constituencies have both gone in favour of INC. In Jamnagar, Muslims presence is high in Khambhalia, Jamnagar and Okhamandal taluks at 21.5. 18.5 and 18.2, respectively. Jamnagar Rural and Jamnagar North have gone to INC, but Khambalia and Dwarka, of which Okhamandal is a part, have gone in favour of BJP.
Mangrol and Patan-Veraval taluks in Junagarh have high Muslim presence of 26 and 21 per cent, respectively. Mangrol has gone in favour of BJP, but Somnath constituency that comprises Veraval taluk has gone to INC. In Vadodara district, Karjan taluk has the highest Muslim presence at about 20 per cent. Karjan constituency has gone in favour of BJP. Similarly, Bharuch district as a whole has relatively high Muslim presence of 21.5 per cent and there are several taluks with even higher Muslim presence. The only seat, BJP has lost here is Jhagadia.
Jhagadia taluk does not have a significant presence of Muslims. Surat also has several taluks with significant Muslim presence; but their presence is not high in Mandvi, the only seat that the BJP has lost in the district.