'The biggest problem that faces the Opposition in Gujarat is just a day or two before voting is scheduled, Modiji goes on a spree of emotional appeals.'
'That process has been set in motion much earlier this time in Gujarat.'
"The BJP is adept at using such emotional tactics just a day or two before election day and swing those on the fence to its side," political commentator R K Misra tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com in the concluding part of the interview.
- PART 1 of the Interview: 'Modi cannot afford to lose Gujarat'
What are the main issues in the Gujarat election?
Issues of farmers, unemployment, inflation, religious polarisation have always been there in Gujarat.
The biggest problem that faces the Opposition in Gujarat is at the last point, just a day or two before voting is scheduled, Modiji goes on a spree of emotional appeals. That process has been set in motion much earlier this time in Gujarat.
Appeals like 'I was always an insignificant person, but the people of Gujarat made me chief minister... you elected me to rule in Gujarat and I did so much for Gujarat... then it was your command that I should go to Delhi and lead the country and I did that with the blessings of the people of India... I am your child; I am your son... now that you have sent me to Delhi it is your duty to look after (the BJP in) Gujarat in my absence...'
The BJP is adept at using such emotional tactics just a day or two before election day and swing those on the fence to its side.
Every single party in India, including the BJP, has been distributing revdis (freebies) but only the Opposition comes in for flak for the revdi culture.
Will the death of more than 135 people in the Morbi bridge collapse emerge a severe pain point for the BJP's chances in 2022?
If people put their thinking cap on then it (the Morbi deaths) will see a huge impact on the BJP's fortunes in Saurashtra. The BJP doesn't have any defence yet because the Morbi municipality is headed by the BJP.
Those who were arrested have got bail, but did you hear that even one post-mortem of those who died has been carried out?
But now that the Gujarat high court has suo motu taken cognisance of the Morbi bridge collapse, that surely will have an impact.
Your assessment is that even if the BJP loses the 2022 Gujarat election -- and that is a big if -- it will still form the government?
Modi keeps his party perennially in election mode. The stakes this time are too high for him to lose Gujarat. Elections for him are like a battle -- a no-holds barred battle. Right or wrong, nothing matters.
Strategically and ethically, you'll find that lots of things have gone wrong for the BJP and yet they persisted and won.
Like during the 2017 election campaign he led the narrative with 'Pakistan is conspiring to make Ahmed Patel the chief minister of Gujarat'. Even former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former vice president Hamid Ansari and former army chief General Deepak Kapoor were dragged into this controversy.
What happened after the 2017 elections got over? The BJP said in Parliament that the prime minister (Modi) holds him (Dr Singh) in high regard and this was never intended. And that was the end of it.
This time round a senior RSS gentleman (Indresh Kumar) goes to Kashmir and says that Mansarovar (now in Tibet) should be made a part of India.
What is the point of raising the Uniform Civil Code issue just a month before the Gujarat election? You were in power since 1995, then what were you doing about it (the Uniform Civil Code )?
And then every time, for every issue, they put the blame on the Congress.
For 27 years you have been in power in Gujarat and the Congress always remained on the margins. But even that bothers the BJP.
In the wake of the worst communal carnage that shook Gujarat in 2002 after the Godhra train carnage, the BJP won its best tally of 127 against the Congress' 51. That was the high point of the BJP and the lowest point for the Congress.
Thereafter, if you look at the election results, the BJP has been steadily losing ground election after election and the Congress has been steadily gaining ground election after election.
In 2017, the BJP saw its lowest ever tally since Modi came to power in Gujarat in 2001 and the Congress reached its highest tally of 77 since 2017.
Modi has been there in power (in Gujarat) for at least half of this period (2001-2014), and the BJP's fall has been steady even during that period. So that is the BJP's cause of worry.
And what the Congress has done this time is that it just has changed the tactics. The Congress, by and large, has been keeping its affairs very low key.
What it has done is that instead of trying to match steps with fresh-with-funds BJP, it has gone low key.
It has done its arithmetic properly. It is concentrating on its core strength areas where it did well (in 2017), which was the rural areas.
And instead of organising high profile meetings, it has begun a grassroots connect, a door-to-door campaign module which in Gujarat are being called the khatiya baithaks (a meeting where village folk gather at someone's house around a big khatiya -- a bed made of woven jute).
The grand scale of the BJP's meetings is done at a colossal cost to the government which the Congress is in no position to match.
Secondly, it has been focusing on areas where it has done very well and where it was defeated marginally (There are about 13 seats in Gujarat where the Congress lost to the BJP by a narrow margin of anywhere between 300 to 1,000 votes). The Congress' basic concentration is on 125 seats.
The urban areas remain the strength of the BJP. Rural areas are the strength of the Congress.
Of the total 55 seats in urbanised centres like Ahmedabad, Baroda, Rajkot and Surat, the BJP bagged 44 with the remaining going into the Congress kitty.
In semi urban and rural seats, which number about 125-odd, the Congress and its allies got 68 and the BJP around 55 (in 2017).
The Congress is placed much better in Saurashtra. This time the Congress will be concentrating less on snatching away seats from the BJP's urban citadels, but concentrating on urban seats where it did well and allow the AAP to lock horns with the BJP in its urban citadels.
Will the AAP eat into the BJP's vote base in urban seats traditionally considered safe for the BJP?
AAP is yet an unknown entity, but as far as I see in the urban areas, if it dents the BJP, then it will give a serious blow to the ruling party. If it picks up votes in rural areas, then the Congress gets hurt.
But you have to factor in that the BJP in Gujarat, as in many other states, is bloated with lot of flotsam coming from the Congress.
Modi, in the process of making a Congress-mukt Bharat has succeeded in making Congress-yukt BJP (a BJP that is overcrowded with defectors from the Congress).
What do you do now that you have collected all this flotsam and jetsam (from the Congress)? You have to give them tickets (to fight the assembly election in Gujarat at the cost of aspirants within the BJP).
Do you give tickets to your old-time loyalists or to those who you picked from the Congress? That is likely to create some kind of ruckus (within the BJP).
In this scenario, even if there is one to two per cent fallout of Rahul Gandhi's (Bharat Jodo) Yatra, which has been picking up a lot of steam ,then the BJP could be facing one of its worst challenges in Gujarat.
But Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra bypassed Gujarat.
It is the right thing to do because if it did enter Gujarat, these guys (from the BJP) would have politicised it. That would have diluted the character of Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra.
With the state administrative machinery at its disposal, even three-four incidents would have been enough to sabotage the character of the yatra.
If the Congress won 51 seats in the horrendously polarised scenario in Gujarat (in 2002), then it indicates that there is a huge voter base that has remained traditionally loyal to the Congress.
Now, if the yatra leads to even one per cent positive fallout for the Congress, then there is bound to be more than one per cent negative fallout for the BJP from the (Morbi) bridge collapse (which led to deaths of more than 135 people).
There are people who even under catastrophic circumstances will support the BJP. There is a certain amount of voters which will support the Congress at any cost.
But it is the floating voters who will decide these elections (in 2022). The election results are decided by these floating voters.
Now, how much of this set of voters go out and vote for the AAP at the cost of either the Congress or BJP will decide this election.
There are people who believe that the AAP, on its own, will not be able to even think of coming to power on its own. Whatever they may say, they can't come to power on their own in Gujarat and in 2022.
If you (the AAP) want to come to power, then you'll have to replicate what you did in Delhi in 2013 when the AAP came to power owing to a tacit understanding with the Congress.