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'Modi has placed himself in the hearts of Gujaratis'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
December 08, 2022 14:26 IST
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'Such are his core supporters that they will vote for him even if cooking oil sells for Rs 5,000 per litre under his leadership.'
'They don't think about inflation but Modi when they go out to vote.'

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party supremo and Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi undertook an unprecedented 30 km-long roadshow through Ahmedabad city, December 1, 2022. Photograph: PTI Photo

On Thursday, December 8, 2022, the Bharatiya Janata Party achieved what no other party has done in the history of Gujarat state.

As per Election Commission projections, the BJP is set to cross the 150 seat mark in the state; the highest election tally before this in Gujarat was 149 seats, a record set by Congress leader Madhavsinh Solanki government in 1985.

This was a mark that Narendra Modi at the height of his popularity as chief minister of Gujarat could not breach. His highest tally was in the post-2002 Gujarat riot elections, when the BJP bagged 127 seats out of 182.

This time his extensive election campaign has ensured that he will go down in history for enabling the BJP to rule the state for more than three decades.

So what worked for the BJP, and why did the Congress, which won 77 seats in the 2017 elections, plunge to around 16 seats this time round?

Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com asks Aziz Tankari, publisher, Gujarat Today newspaper, why the Modi magic continues to work in the state.

 

The BJP will make electoral history in Gujarat by winning more than 150 seats. What is the reason for the BJP's stupendous success?

The most important reason is when the election was announced the Congress's local leaders did not jump in to start to work.

The Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee went into complacency mode.

When Aam Aadmi Party leaders started arriving from Delhi to campaign in Gujarat, at that time too they did not move out to campaign among the public.

They thought the anti-incumbency factor will work for them as the people of Gujarat were disillusioned with the BJP.

The people of Gujarat were angry with the BJP, but the Congress failed to cash in on it.

The BJP also selected good candidates to win and they ensured they got rebel Congress leaders to contest to ensure the Congress's defeat.

Mr Modi held 26 public rallies. Did that work for the Gujarat voters?

And you see, to the contrary Congress leaders did not even do six rallies in Gujarat.

Rahul Gandhi visited the state just once.

One cannot take elections for granted.

In politics you have to reach out to people with your plan of action and show people hope before elections. The Congress did not do that.

The on-the-fence voters too moved away from the Congress.

As per Election Commission data the BJP has won 53 percent of the votes, surely a huge number even though it is 8 percent less than what it won in the 2019 Lok Sabha election when it won 61 percent of the vote in Gujarat..

In this matter, people are speculating about EVMs. There are doubts that someone can tamper with the EVMs.

In Morbi, more than 100 people lost their lives in the bridge collapse and still people there voted for the BJP. Isn't this surprising?

That is why I said EVMs can be responsible.

Is the win because the Gujaratis feel the BJP is their family?

I don't agree with that.

This time I saw many BJP people stating that they were not going to vote for the BJP. They were bothered about issues like corruption and inflation.

It is unfortunate the Congress could not cash in on the disillusionment among voters.

One of the reasons could be that the Congress lacked funds to fight elections. They had given tickets and told each candidate to fight with his or her own resources.

In this scenario, Congress candidates could not match the muscle and money power of the BJP which is huge in Gujarat.

Were the Congress party banners not visible in Gujarat?

No, they were not. Even if they were, it was just here and there.

If the BJP had 10 banners displayed, then the Congress had one.

The Congress, which was visible during Ahmed Patel or Madhavsinh Solanki's time, is not to be seen in Gujarat.

The Congress worked half-heartedly in Gujarat and lack of funds killed the morale of their candidates.

It is like they themselves were not sure of victory and therefore nobody was giving funds to the party.

Do you feel the 2002 Gujarat riots was an issue this time as BJP leaders like Amit Shah were indirectly reminding voters that if the Congress came back to power the state won't be riot-free?

No, the 2002 Gujarat riots was not an issue in these elections.

People will move in the direction if any visionary Opposition leader gives them the vision.

It is just that Gujarat does not have that kind of leader in the Opposition now.

The Congress was playing on the back foot from day one when elections were announced.

Is it because they had competition in Prime Minister Modi, the son of Gujarat, who was in full campaign mode?

The Gujarati will abuse the BJP, but never Prime Minister Modi.

He has made his image among them.

He has placed himself in the hearts of Gujaratis.

Such are his core supporters that they will vote for him even if cooking oil sells for Rs 5,000 per litre under his leadership. They don't think about inflation, but Modi when they go out to vote.

This was applicable in the 2017 assembly elections too, but the BJP then won just 99 seats, 7 short of a majority.

At that time Ahmed Patel was alive and he campaigned hard for the party. Rahul Gandhi too worked on the ground to ensure the Congress party's victory. Its tally went to 77, which was a very good achievement.

Did Rahul Gandhi not going to Gujarat harm the party?

His Bharat Jodo Yatra is good, but he should have had come to Gujarat for that. He should not have skipped the state.

Did AAP cut into Congressvotes?

Yes, they did that. However, AAP did not cut into the BJP's votes.

The Opposition votes got divided and the Congress lost badly due to that.

AAP campaigned for freebies very openly. That went into the minds of Gujarati voters. Therefore, you see they got more than 10 percent of votes.

Are there Congress cadres on the ground in Gujarat?

There are Congress cadres on the ground, but then they have to be assigned work by some state leader.

And when leaders are not on the ground, how will the cadres get motivated?

Congress leaders were sitting in air-conditioned towers in Gujarat. How can you expect them to win then?

Many people felt the Hindutva laboratory experiment in Gujarat is complete now and no other party can ever win in Gujarat. Is that true?

They (the BJP) always dreamt of crossing the 149 seat figure, that was a record of Madhavsinh Solanki. Now they have managed to cross that.

The thing about the BJP voter in Gujarat is that out of 100, some 70 percent of them will vote for the BJP irrespective of if they are giving bad governance.

Dalits and minorities are not their traditional voters, but then another party will have to work hard to woo the 30 percent of BJP voters who are ready to vote against them.

These 30 percent of BJP voters want to vote for other parties, but they do not see any alternative to the BJP in Gujarat and therefore they vote for them.

70 percent of BJP voters are reserved for them. It is only the rest 30 percent that Opposition parties can work hard to get them on their side.

How did the BJP get into the minds of Gujarati voters in such a manner?

The BJP has ingrained in the minds of 70 percent of their voters that if they do not come back to power, they will be in trouble. They will be insecure in another party's rule.

But then this is not restricted to Gujarat alone. You can check out what is happening in Uttar Pradesh where the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party too are failing to woo BJP voters.

Somebody has to raise their voice in the Opposition and work Constitutionally against them.

It is only AAP that has successfully taken them on in Delhi. The Congress should have followed AAP's electoral success model of Delhi in Gujarat.

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
 
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