Issue :   
December 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         December 2017 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:Dec' 2017


Will BJP touch Magic figure 150 ?

Yogesh Sharma

Narendra Modi Hardik Patel, A l p e s h Thakore and Jigneh Mevani are household names in Gujarat. In the media, these three names have transcended state boundaries and are known to those who have any interest in Gujarat or who are studying social engineering in the country. These young men represent three major components of Gujarat society, Patidars, OBC and Dalits which accounts for more than 70 per cent of the population and thus vote bank.
What is the most striking about them is the fact that they all are young in real term of age and not like 50-year-old young leaders of political parties. They have emerged leaders of their castes and communities outside the

traditional political system, on their own. All this has happened in a short span of less than three years. When Gujarat goes to the polls in December, much of the election politics is hovering round these three leaders. They have made one thing clear: they are deadly against the ruling BJP in Gujarat. Hardik Patel is a leader of Patidars. He demands reservation for Patidars in jobs and education like OBC. The agitation, led by Patidar Amanat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) in August 2015, resulted in statewide unrest in which 14 Patidars were killed in police firing. This also resulted in hundreds of police cases against Patidars.
They have added more demands to the reservation agenda. The issue of reservation is so sensitive that it touched all sections, including SC and OBC who feared encroachment by Patidars on their specified constitutional right of reservation.

Rahul Gandhi Alpesh Thakore emerged as leader fighting against the problem of drinking in the Thakore community. Later he added the problem of education and employment in his community charter. This forced the government to come out with more strict prohibition policy while Alpesh emerged as a stronger leader of the community, having influence in six districts.
The Dalit atrocity incident of Una last year brought Jignesh Mevani to fame. There are other pending cases of atrocities against Dalits which gave Mevani comfortable leverage in the Dalit community.
There are a number of Dalit leaders in both the Congress and the BJP. Dalits are still treated as untouchable in many villages. So the cause of Dalits got a new face in Jignesh Mevani. He was successful in exposing the BJP response as case of upper caste politics of the government.

Hardik Patel Much of the time and energy of both the Congress and the BJP is focused on taking these leaders in their fold as they are outside the network of the two parties in their vote banks. Alpesh Thakore has already joined the Congress and Hardik Patel has extended full support to the Congress. Mevani is likely to make his stand clear in coming days. He seems all set to support the Congress.

Amit Shah The rise of these leaders shows the failure of the political system to respond to the problems of three major segments of the society. At the same time, it is a telling evidence of failure of the ruling party to handle the problems of these sectors.
There are many other issues like fixed wage employees and ASHA workers facing the BJP which has been in power in Gujarat for the last 22 years.

Alpesh Thakor

Vijay Rupani

Vikas v. Navsarjan

Both the Congress and the BJP have one word slogan to describe their campaign. The BJP says that it stands for the development of the state. It claims that Gujarat has developed during the 12-yearrule of Narendra Modi who was Chief Minister till 2014. Thereafter he became Prime Minister.
Interestingly, initially Modi and all other leaders talked about Modi rule only. When the Congress started speaking in terms of 22 years of the BJP rule they too adopted 22 years in their public discourse.

Jignesh Mevani BJP leaders start with the word Vikas with some figures of growth rate and vibrant Gujarat MOUs and soon turn to injustice to Gujarat's cry. First and foremost is the Narmada project which, according to the BJP, is the best example of anti-Gujarat mindset. The BJP has clear agenda of raising the Gujarati emotional pitch in the campaign.

Leader after leader talks about injustice to Sardar Patel by the Congress and Nehru. They frequently ask questions: Why Nehru prevented people from going to the funeral of Sardar Patel? Why was he not given the Bharat Ratna award by the Nehru-Gandhi family in power while Rajiv Gandhi was given award quickly? Then, they remind the people of communal riots during the Congress rule while claiming that under the BJP rule Gujarat is curfew free and people are living peacefully.
These questions put Congress leaders on the defensive. They are made to repeatedly explain that they all are for Gujarat and Gujaratis.
They are digging out facts from the recent history to make a case of the Congress and its leaders standing for Gujarat and Gujaratis. The Congress has sharply focused its attack on the BJP, raising issues like unemployment, privatization in education and health care which has made these basic needs of people costly and beyond reach of the common man. The price rise, implementation of GST and dmonetisation, high rate of VAT on petrol and diesel are in the arsenal of Congress leaders. They claim that they would create a new Gujarat where poor people and small and medium industry will be developed for an inclusive development of the state.

Modi v. Rahul

Neither the Congress nor the BJP has local face to lead the campaign. The BJP has Modi with his Gujarat and Gujarati spirit. He has come to Gujarat more than a dozen times in the past six months to campaign for his party. Though BJP leaders claim that Vijay Rupani will remain CM and Nitin Patel Deputy CM on the party's return to power, one can not be sure. Such statements by BJP leaders come up during the media interaction. None is projected this way.
Modi is the star campaigner. The party is solely dependent on his charisma. He is going for huge rallies to take his message to the masses. The anti- Gujarati Congress is his script which is echoed in his - speeches. Modi dedicated the Narmada dam to the nation, launched ferry service between Dahej and Gogha and laid foundation stone of an international airport near the pilgrim town of Chotila in last two months. The star campaigner of the Congress is Rahul Gandhi. He has campaigned in the entire state in four phases in addition to three separate visits. No senior leader ever had such an intensive campaign for the party in Gujarat.
Besides public meetings, he is meeting groups of students, small and medium businessmen, professionals like doctors, chartered accountants, farmers and unorganized workers. He stops at villages, holds nukkad meetings, drinks tea and have snacks at roadside stalls. At places, he makes a very disarming statement that his oratory is not like Modi, but what he speaks he means.

Rebellion in BJP cadres

This is something which is a great news for the cadrebased BJP. Vertical split in the Gujarat BJP by Shankarsinh Vaghela in 1997 was an exception. This time, rebellion in the party from the worker level to MLA and MP is very evident on TV channels and occupy considerable space in newspapers. Two MPs demanded assembly tickets for their wife and son, threating to resign to press their demand. Some former MLAs have quit. Some filed nominations as independent. This has put party leaders in damage control mode. It is likely to succeed in many cases like the agitation of Karadia Rajputs against Party president Jitu Vaghani. They wanted his resignation. But they were seen together at the public meeting at the time of filing of nomination by Vaghani.
No doubt the Congress, as usual, has its quota of rebels going out against the party in all possible ways.

BJP's "operation pacify"

For the past four months, the BJP has doled out schemes and incentives of thousands of crores to garner support of diverse dissenting groups. It has set up commissions for agitating Patidars, raised salary of agitating fixed wage earners, ASHA workers and teachers. But none seems to be satisfied as all have issued statements to the media saying that these are election gimmicks. The question is: will these efforts help the BJP keep its base intact and further expand it to touch the magic figure of 150?

Magic figure of 150

The logic of 150 is quite interesting. The highest number of seats 149 were won by the Congress when Madhavsinh Solanki was Chief Minister in 1985. In 1980, the Congress had won 139 seats.
When Modi came to power during the height of the Godhra incident, the BJP got 126 seats, the highest ever by the BJP. In 2007, it gained 117 and in 2012 the party got 115. In the 2014 Parliament elections the BJP won all 26 Lok Sabha seats. But in the 2015 Panchayat elections, the Congress gained control of most of the panchayats. And this led to the rise of social movements of Patidars, OBCs and Dalits which are now playing out as a formidable political factor. Last year, this agitation cost the first woman Chief Minister Anandiben Patel her job and Vijay Rupani entered the Chief Minister's office.
Now, the answer to the question of magic 150 will be in VVPAT, but in the public mind space, it is a distant goal post!