Not so fast, Rahul: Is Congress too optimistic about its appeal to Gujarati voters? : NATION
Occasion employees and volunteers are flocking in direction of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress workplace in Ahmedabad’s prosperous Paldi space. For the primary time within the final three state elections, the Congress believes it has a real probability when polls open on December 9 to defeat the BJP. Rahul Gandhi has been drawing giant crowds. And a part of the arrogance additionally stems from the potential impact on the elections of three younger disruptors – Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani – who command important followings of their respective castes and are against the BJP.
Is the BJP in hassle in a state it has managed, apart from a quick, negligible interval, since 1995? Rajdeep Sardesai, consulting editor on the India Immediately Group, argues that “solely anger can unseat the BJP in Gujarat and in the intervening time there’s unhappiness at most somewhat than outright anger”. Veteran Gujarati journalist Kanti Patel, who has been overlaying state elections for 35 years, is much more dismissive. “There is likely to be anti-incumbency towards the BJP,” he says. “However with Narendra Modi because the celebration’s face, the BJP will win comfortably. The one factor that the celebration has to protect towards is its obvious conceitedness.”
The obstacles to a Congress win are important.
POOR TICKET DISTRIBUTION
Prior to now three Gujarat meeting polls, the Congress has failed at distributing tickets whereas holding these it has disillusioned on board. In each 2007 and 2012, those that had misplaced out on tickets responded with violence on the celebration headquarters. Insiders estimate that errors in ticket distribution have price the Congress a minimum of 30 seats in earlier elections. Below nationwide secretary Ashok Gehlot and his no-nonsense deputies, Bharatsinh Solanki and Shaktisinh Gohil, ticket distribution is anticipated to be extra clear. However the celebration’s hand is pressured. It should give its 44 sitting MLAs tickets, having misplaced 13 MLAs to the BJP within the riot led by former Congress chief Shankersinh Vaghela.
Nishit Vyas, Gujarat Congress normal secretary, acknowledges the must be “cautious that ticketless malcontents do not react negatively”. This might show to be simpler stated than accomplished whether it is true, as one Congress chief confesses anonymously, that “on this election cycle there are 15 to 20 contenders for nearly every seat in rural areas”.
Coping with Thakore, Patel, and Mevani might also show troublesome, with all three reportedly hanging offers with the Congress management for ticket allocations. Thakore, particularly, is claimed to be unrelenting. Patel, some insiders declare, has requested for 15-20 tickets. And whereas Mevani has been essentially the most accommodating, between them the trio need management over a minimum of 40 seats.
THE HARDIK AND ALPESH QUESTION
Whereas on paper the prospect of Patel, Thakore and Mevani being within the Congress nook is attractive, in actuality their pursuits conflict. As an example, in north and central Gujarat, and a few essential districts in Saurashtra, Thakore and the Congress get pleasure from a robust following within the OBC Kshatriya group. On the village degree, although, the Patels are historically in battle with OBC Kshatriyas. When the 2 communities have united up to now, it has been as a result of the BJP has persuaded them that their pursuits are greatest served by Hindu solidarity.
How will the Congress deal with their competing calls for? In main elements of rural Gujarat, the Patels are opposed by practically all OBC castes, not simply OBC Kshatriyas. The BJP, celebration employees say, is already planning to divide the citizens alongside caste strains in areas the place the Congress’s Patel candidate, handpicked by Hardik, enjoys robust help.
Gehlot, the celebration’s Gujarat in-charge whose management has been important to the Congress’s obvious resurgence, insists that the “BJP’s makes an attempt at polarisation alongside caste and communal strains will not succeed as a result of anger on numerous counts towards the BJP has united the folks”. The sensation of anti-incumbency, many within the Congress declare, is so robust that caste divisions could be papered over. Nonetheless, as many as 38 Patel organisations, each small and enormous, have come out in opposition to Hardik, describing him as a politically formidable, self-interested chief who continues to mislead the Patel group when the BJP state authorities has already acceded to most of his calls for.
As with Hardik, a big variety of Thakores dispute Alpesh’s management of the group. Former followers of his Gujarat Thakore Sena have complained that Alpesh vowed he was a social employee and would by no means enter celebration politics. The BJP is eager to emphasize their sense of betrayal. Bharat Pandya, a spokesman for the Gujarat BJP, says, in apparent reference to Hardik and Alpesh, that “it is not as simple because the political pundits suppose to keep up a grip over giant communities”. Natuji Thakore, the BJP’s OBC Kshatriya face, is extra direct, claiming that “Alpesh’s power is very overrated”.
CONGRESS’s URBAN NIGHTMARE
Even when the Congress is ready to resolve among the points outlined above, how will it reverse the BJP’s dominance of 100 city and semi-urban seats? A dominance that was confirmed in 2012 when the BJP received practically each seat in cities like Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, and Rajkot, although it suffered closely in rural north and central Gujarat.
Within the 2015 civic polls, after the emergence of Hardik Patel, the BJP received simply eight of the 31 district panchayats and 80 of the 230 taluka panchayats, however held sway in city areas, profitable all seven municipal companies. Supporters argue that the BJP’s dedication to growth has been evident over the previous couple of many years, that there’s a observe document at each state and nationwide degree.
The proposal to boost the Narmada dam to its full peak of 138 metres, for instance, was pending for a decade underneath the UPA on the Centre till Modi grew to become prime minister. In 2012, as Gujarat chief minister, Modi introduced a mission to divert the surplus waters of the Narmada saved within the Sardar Sarovar dam to 115 dams to ease drought-like situations in some 5,000 villages in Saurashtra. As prime minister, he adopted by means of, inaugurating the primary section of the Saurashtra Narmada Avataran Irrigation (SAUNI) Yojana in 2016. The mission, the BJP says, is a boon to farmers and can assist the celebration counter Congress assaults in rural Saurashtra.
MODI AND HINDUTVA
Lastly, for all of the Congress’s tom-tomming of anti-incumbency, it is aware of that Modi has attained virtually legendary standing in his residence state. A lot of what some name ‘Gujarati satisfaction’ is invested within the picture of Modi as chief. A senior Congress determine admitted that each one the progress his celebration has made within the final three months “may collapse like a home of playing cards within the face of Modi’s attraction. It’s the issue that we most worry”.
And within the state referred to as the laboratory of Hindutva, BJP president Amit Shah is just not shy about taking part in the Hindutva card. A careless try has already been made, attempting to hyperlink Congress Rajya Sabha member and Sonia Gandhi confidante Ahmed Patel to ISIS through a suspected operative who labored in a Bharuch hospital the place Patel had been a trustee. One other Shah trump card is D.G. Vanzara, a former deputy inspector normal of the Gujarat police and in style ‘encounter cop’. He spent eight years in jail, suspected of extra-judicial killings. It made him a hero amongst many Hindus. His reputation, the BJP believes, can negate the Congress’s caste technique.
If Modi is the figurehead, Shah’s ways and professional sales space administration imply it’s arduous to see how the Congress’s dream of taking Gujarat will likely be realised.