Going by the leads coming in, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is winning Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Although it does not seem to be in the lines the party chief Amit Shah had predicted and the BJP expected, its victory in Gujarat, despite being in power continuously for 23 years, in Gujarat is an achievement for the ruling party. Let’s take a look at the possible reasons.
It is undoubtedly a victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brand Modi. Like in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and last year’s Uttar Pradesh elections, Modi was the prominent factor in the Gujarat elections too. No one or nothing, even the wide network and strong organisation of the BJP in the state, would not have pulled a win had it not been Modi’s unchallenged leadership and his towering personality. Voters in Gujarat still vouch for his leadership, despite the growing disillusionment against the BJP’s style of functioning and its economic policies – this was post demonetisation and GST election. Modi has addressed 34 rallies in 15 days in Gujarat, making strong, passionate and intense appeals to “protect Gujarat asmita”.
The strong organisation, for which both Modi and Amit Shah are responsible, did the heavy lifting of transforming Modi’s popularity into votes for BJP. Expecting a tight fight, Shah had supervised an unprecedented micro-management in the run-up to the election. Although he does not enjoy much popularity or acceptance among the voters, party workers are still in awe of his commitment and hard work. He had addressed 31 public rallies while travelling 6,665 km in his home state since November 21. The Congress, which has been out of power for more than two decades and which has lost a few of its leaders to BJP in the last one year, could not match the organisation skills of the BJP leadership.
The BJP has a good connect with its voters in the state. Gujarati voters may be upset with the BJP and its policies, but do not reject its ideology. A section of voters, especially those in the agrarian sector and the youth – especially those belonging to the Patidars and backward communities – did not want the party to take them for granted. But they voting against the BJP in this assembly election may not mean an ideological shift.
The good governance
There has been a distress in the rural areas, farmers have been agitating and different caste groups have been upset, but overall people felt that the BJP governments, especially those which were run by Prime Minister Modi, have worked for the people. The top layers of the society – business and industry people – feel that toppling of BJP government would be harmful to them.
Intense campaign invoking Gujarati pride
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP leaders have made their best to invoke Gujarati asmita. During his speeches, Prime Minister Modi tried to overshadow the topics of GST and demonetisation focusing on development, Gujarati asmita and the “son of soil” pitches. The narrative he wanted to build for the Gujarat election was not the present government’s performance but the gains and achievements of the past BJP governments. He had presented Congress president Rahul Gandhi as anti-Gujarati, creating doubts in the minds of voters.
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