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Will BJP's vote bank vote?
Amberish K Diwanji |
December 11, 2002 17:33 IST
Now that the campaigning is over in Gujarat and the microphones can be packed away, the Bharatiya Janata Party workers are preparing for a key task: getting the apathetic middle class to vote on December 12.
The middle class is seen as the BJP's vote bank -- the segment that has propelled the party to power in the state and, as part of a coalition government, at the Centre. Yet, this segment is notorious for not taking the trouble to vote.
Voting means standing in a queue, often in the sun, awaiting your turn as the queue progresses slowly, and all this on a working day with office or business to attend to. Most prefer to skip it.
"If the middle class votes, the BJP will sweep Vadodara city and its rural areas," said Bhavesh Shah, who owns a business establishment in Sayajigunj. His vote is in the Raopura constituency.
In fact, so palpable is the BJP's fear of middle-class apathy that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which is affiliated to the BJP, took out huge front page advertisements in key Gujarat papers claiming that the Muslim clergy had issued a fatwa to the Muslim community to vote en bloc against the BJP.
Another concern for the BJP is that December happens to be the marriage season. The BJP fears that it might lose quite a few middle-class votes with families busy in marriage preparations.
But the advantage of December is that with the day temperatures bearable, more people are likely to come out to vote. Summer temperatures in Gujarat hover around 40 degrees Celsius, often keeping even the most ardent supporters indoors.
Finally, most BJP supporters realise that virtually the entire Muslim community is likely to vote, and all in the favour of the Congress. This in turn has energised the BJP supporters to come out in huge numbers.
"How can I not vote on that day," asked Bhavesh Shah, "Come what may, I will vote."
Jignesh Joshi of the BJP's youth wing blamed the middle-class apathy for the BJP candidate's defeat in the 2001 by-election in Sayajigung. Then, Congress candidate Dalsukhbhai Prajapati defeated Jitubhai Sukhadia.
"If our supporters had taken the trouble to vote, we could have easily defeated Sukhadia, but they did not vote, while all of Prajapati's supporters voted," added Joshi.
He pointed out that Sayajigunj is full of huge bungalows and expensive apartments, housing of the city's most affluent sections.
However, Joshi insists that this time, given all that has happened in the past months, the same apathetic middle-class would turn up en bloc to vote on December 12, all of which would effectively neutralise the votes of the Muslims and the poor that might go to the Congress.