Issue :   
January 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         January 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:Jan' 2018


Dent in saffron bastion

Yogesh Sharma

Verdict 2017 is out. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has managed to retain power in Gujarat for the sixth time. But it has to pay heavy cost for this achievement. The number of its MLAs has been reduced to two digit, just 99, in the worst ever performance of the party in last 22 years. This is despite the fact that the Gujarat election campaign was led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself from the front. There were scores of BJP leaders from outside Gujarat who held meetings in every part of the state in their electoral campaign.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior BJP leaders are posing a jubilant mood, it is a fact that the results will have an impact on the Assembly elections in 2018 and the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The first causality will be Rajya Sabha elections when two BJP MPs are retiring. The increased strength of 80 in the House of 182 will give the Congress a great opportunity to defeat the BJP RS candidate and push at least one more candidate in Rajya Sabha. Every election is historic as it is recorded in history books. But the Gujarat Assembly election 2017 is more historic in many more ways. It has shown waning Modi power in his home state. No doubt the BJP has managed this victory only because of one man army, Narendra Modi, but the charm of 2014 Lok Sabha elections is missing when BJP had won all 26 Lok Sabha elections. From the election battlefield, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has emerged as a strong and mature political leader with his style to approach people and substance to communicate his political brief. Even in the Congress defeat, Rahul Gandhi has come out victorious, not a laughing stock, as painted by BJP, but a serious political leader to reckon with. Narendra Modi and his team will have to deal with this Rahul Gandhi in 2018 which will set pace for the 2019 Lok Sabha election be a decisive factor for a second term to Modi in PMO.
The most puzzling aspect of this election is the outcome of Surat where the BJP has retained its hold with 15 of the 16 seats. Surat, commercial capital of Gujarat, was in news all throughout the election campaign with GST badly affecting textile and diamond industry here. Individual businessman and trade and industry organizations were the quite critical of GST and the response of the Modi government to their demand for change in GST.
Though the government brought changes in GST in 128 items, demands of Surat traders were not met. Crowd in the meetings of Rahul Gandhi and fire brand leader Hardik Patel had raised lots of hopes for the Congress. But the results betrayed the Congress. Had Surat gone the expected way, the Congress would have come very close to a majority of 92.
Not only Surat, all eight Municipal corporations have supported the BJP outright. Only Ahmedabad has shown increase in the number of seats from two to four. In Junagadh the Congress candidate has come, but the overall situation has remained in favour of the BJP.

With this trend the simplest picture of the Gujarat election battle is of urban -rural divide. The Congress had gained control of most of panchayats in 2015 Panchayat elections. Even in 2017 elections, the Congress has retained its control over rural voters. Further interpretation in terms of Patidar and other ongoing agitation can be a subject of academic analysis. The fact is that there is growing divide in rural votes in the BJP and the Congress. The Congress has got 62 seats in rural areas which is 15 seats more than what it had in 2012 while the BJP has got 43 seats with loss of 13 seats. In urban areas the Congress has got three more seats.
The lesson of the election is that the BJP should focus on the disenchanting rural voters while the Congress should try to wean away urban voter from BJP. Another major factor that played a vital role in the 2017 elections is internal dissension in the BJP. For the first time in 22 years, there were cases of open revolt in the BJP with its MPs threatening to quit the party if their relatives were not given ticket. Many protested party's decision not to give ticket to them.

BJP Won in Ahmedabad 16 seats out of 21. Surat 15 out of 16. Vadodara 9 out of 10. Rajkot 6 out of 8. 46 out of 55 in total. If we don't consider these 4 big cities then out of 127 BJP - 53, Congress - 71, Other - 03. These 4 cities made BJP win.

The results reflect this dissension. Six of BJP Ministers and the speaker have lost. Seven of the nine Congress MLAs who had switched over to BJP in July this year in a revolt engineered by former CLP leader Shankarsinh Vaghela were defeated as there was strong opposition to these outsiders within the BJP.
Shankarsinh Vaghela had entered into the election battle field with the cry that Gujarat was ready for the third party as people were fed up with both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress and wanted change. However, there was confusion over his concept of the third option in Gujarat and he was regarded as B team of the BJP to cut vote share of the Congress. He floated Janvikalp front but borrowed election symbol of tractor of a Rajasthan-based least known political party.
He failed miserably. All his over 100 candidates lost deposits. His front gained 0.03 per cent of votes polled and was second from the bottom.

NOTA played a big role as 1.8 per cent voters opted for the None of the Above (NOTA) option affecting results of more than 20 seats.

In terms of votes polled, both the Congress and the BJP have r e g i s t e r e d increase. The Congress has gained 2.47 per cent more votes as its polling percentage has increased from 38.93 per cent in 2012 to 41.40 per cent in 2017 while that of the BJP has a gain of 1.25 per cent.
But average d i f f e r e n c e remains almost the same, eight per cent. This has made a difference of 17 seats for the BJP which had 216 seats in 2012.
The Congress had the battle cry of Navsarjan. Though results have not brought the Congress to power, the defeat of its three top leaders, Shaktisinh Gohil, Arjun Modhwadia and Siddhartha Patel has made it bring new faces in state. Though these three leaders were defeated in 2012 also, they were the visible face of the party in the media and thus in public.