From my perch and my psephological calculations, the Gujarat assembly polls (scheduled on December 1 and 5, with the results to be announced on December 8) have a foregone conclusion. It is likely to be Advantage Bharatiya Janata Party. The disagreement among pollsters is on the question of who will be the runner-up. And who will end up as number three? Will it be Congress or Aam Aadmi Party, on numbers two and three?
By winning Gujarat on December 8, BJP will create history as it would be the seventh consecutive victory for the party, having been in power in the state for 32 years. In the language of election studies, in the field of political science, such a string of consecutive victories by any party is explained as a long-term pattern of electoral realignment, defined as a “decisive, durable, and significant shift in voting behaviour.”
PM invokes Gujarati Asmita
Invoking Gujarati pride and identity (asmita), Prime Minister Narendra Modi, kicked off the BJP’s campaign on November 6, from Valsad, with a new slogan: “Aa Gujarat, mein banavyu chhe” (We have made this Gujarat).” And Prime Minister’s claim is accurate. The BJP’s peak performance in Gujarat, of the six consecutive victories since 1995, was achieved in December 2002 elections, under former Chief Minister Narendra Modi, when the party bagged 127 of the total 182 seats.
The crest of the BJP’s victory in 2002 in Gujarat dramatically led to a trough in 2017, a humdinger of an election, which also the BJP won with a slim margin, its tally shrunk to 99. The Congress party, the main challenger, ended up with 77 seats. The AAP, which had made its first entry in Gujarat in 2017, contesting only 29 out of 182 seats, ended up crushed, losing its deposits in all the seats.
The dramatic drop in BJP’s seats in 2017, was largely due to the massive Patidar (which constitutes 17 per cent of the Gujarat population) quota stir in Gujarat led by the young and charismatic leader Hardik Patel.
Two-horse race turns 3-cornered contest in 2022
The electoral scenario has changed 180 degrees since 2017. From a largely, bipolar fight in 2017, the competition has become three-cornered today, with AAP making waves with its campaign but a subdued Congress on the defensive.
Bharat Jodo Yatra sans Gujarat: Rahul’s mistake
The Congress made a string of mistakes as the Opposition party because of which pollsters predict that its 40 per cent vote in 2017, is likely to slip down to 30 per cent. First of all, Congress’s tallest leader in Gujarat, and former secretary of former Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, is no more. Post-Ahmed Patel, Congress had never had a tall leader who can hold the party together despite internal squabbles.
Furthermore, Hardik Patel, who was miffed with Congress since day one (Congress had only given tickets to two of Hardik Patel’s acolytes in the first list although it gave 20 seats to Patidar candidates) is today with the BJP. Last, but not least, whoever planned Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, forgot Gujarat, the key state which goes to the polls in December. If Congress was serious about challenging the invincible might of the BJP in Gujarat, it should have planned a West-East Bharat Jodo Yatra instead of from Kanyakumari in the south to Kashmir in the north minus Gujarat. The unmistakable message that the Congress party signalled to voters is that you cannot blame Rahul Gandhi for Congress’s failure in Gujarat on December 8.
Can the unstoppable winning rath (chariot) of BJP in Gujarat be stopped by the two challengers – an aggressive AAP and a subdued Congress? Can the BJP’s advantage in Gujarat in early December be turned into a disadvantage in the assembly polls? The only strategy that might make it possible is if AAP and Congress were to unite in a pre-poll joint front against the BJP, turning the three-cornered contest back into a two-horse race: BJP versus Congress-AAP Mahagathbandhan. The logic would be based on the dictum “United we stand, divided we fall.” Since that scenario is unlikely, therefore, the Gujarat assembly polls in December remain a foregone conclusion, with Advantage BJP.