As the Gujarat Assembly nears the end of its tenure in January 2018, the state is expected to go to polls in the coming months. The official notification from the Election Commission of India specifying the exact schedule is expected to come around early November and the result is expected to come some time in early January. This election will be the first after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three straight poll victories in the state which saw a non-BJP victory way back in 1998 when the Rashtriya Janata Dal formed the government. The incumbent BJP has ruled over the state since October 2001.
After then chief minister Narendra Modi resigned from his position in 2014, the party installed first Anandiben Patel and subsequently the incumbent Vijay Rupani as Chief Minister of Gujarat.
In terms of momentum, the BJP has sustained its share over the last three elections. In 2002, 2007 and 2012 state polls, BJP won 127, 117 and 115 seats in the 182-member Assembly. The principal Opposition Congress, on the other hand, 51, 59 and 61 seats in the same elections. New entrants Aam Aadmi Party will be in the fray as well. The party has laid down ground work for its grassroot units for a few years now and party chief Arvind Kejriwal’s proximity with Patidar leader Hardik Patel will be an interesting prospect to watch. The Janata Dal United has also maintained close proximity with Patel who is a massively influential character in the state now.
Anandiben Patel resigned after the massive Patidar and Dalit agitations in the state. Whether or not her government’s failure to contain the protest was the reason was not clear. However, the BJP did lose good share of the Patidar vote which constitute a sizeable portion of the state’s population.
The Lok Sabha elections of 2019 will follow in around a year and half after the state elections. So, the result will be crucial for both the BJP and the Congress so as to carry over the momentum into the 2019 polls as well.