Though it is too early and the electoral battle is yet to acquire full momentum early opinion poll suggests that the BJP is once again going to win the Gujarat Assembly election.
However, most opinion polls done more than a month before the two-phase of elections suggest that both percentage-wise and seat-wise the BJP may not manage to repeat its performance of 2002, 2007 and 2012.
In 2012 the saffron party––with Narendra Modi not only the chief minister of the state, but was about to be anointed as the PM candidate––won 115 seats against 117 and 127 in the previous two elections.
Its vote share reduced to 47.85 per cent from 49.8 per cent in 2002.
Congress, on the other hand, won 61 seats in 2012 and garnered 38.93 per cent of votes.
Naturally, the Congress camp is not going to buy these opinion polls as it is too early and the battle-lines have not yet been drawn.
Though Gujarat is the biggest stronghold of the BJP it is here that the Congress is hopeful of making a big dent into the former’s vote-bank.
With both PM Modi and party chief, Amit Shah, from the state, and BJP making it an issue of Gujarati pride, it is leaving no stone unturned to win the election again. Anyway none of the poll surveys are confirming that the BJP would get 150 seats as it is boasting.
Though Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani have thrown their lot behind the Congress several political pundits are of the view that they represent Patidars, OBCs and Dalits respectively, who have contradictory goals and objectives. So they doubt whether the Congress would be able to perform as well as it is expecting.
Various analysts are citing the example of 1985 election when the Congress, under the leadership of Madhavsinh Solanki––father of the present Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki––won 149 seats. He had formed KHAM, that is an alliance of Kshatriyas, Harijans (Dalits), Adivasis and Muslims.
This time the situation is somewhat different. Patels or Patidars, who had always been the BJP’s staunchest supporters, are showing signs of rebellion. Instead tribals (Adivasis) and various trading communities are in favour of the saffron party.
But the BJP is still sanguine of getting votes of well off Patels. After all they form a sizeable number of overseas Gujaratis, who used to donate generously to the saffron party.
However, when Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday (Nov 11) visited Gujarat for the fourth in the recent weeks, he was accorded a warm welcome in Patidar dominated villages in the northern part of the state.
Though the BJP has a much better war-machine and RSS volunteers are spread in all the nooks and orners of the state, yet the Congress leaders––and even some independent observers––are hopeful that the general indifference in the saffron party rank and file may cost the latter dearly.
“Regarding the opinion poll, the less said is better. If the exit poll, which is done after the polling is over, can go horribly so wrong in Bihar and UP, how can one jump to any conclusion a month before the election,” a senior journalist, told TMC. Nobody had predicted such a bad defeat for the NDA in Bihar in 2015 and such a thumping victory of the BJP in UP earlier this year.
No doubt, a much bigger stake is involved in this year’s Gujarat electoral battle, which is heading for one-to-one battle with Aam Aadmi Party now hardly in the scene. The Punjab experiment has taught a bitter lesson to the party.
Besides, the BJP has not fully succeeded in giving a communal colour to the election.