Of the 21 Assembly constituencies in Saurashtra-Kutch that recorded a four per cent or more decline in voter turnout this election, 15 are currently held by the ruling BJP, while only four are with the Opposition Congress, polling data suggests.
This might be bad news for the BJP if the 2017 numbers are taken into account. In a similar decline of voter turnout five years ago, the saffron party had lost eight of the 17 seats in the region.
Polling was conducted for the 54 seats of the Saurashtra-Kutch and South Gujarat regions in the first phase on December 1. According to the data released by the Election Commission of India (ECI), Saurashtra-Kutch recorded an average 61.17 per cent turnout—3.77 per cent lower than the 64.94 per cent recorded in the 2017 Assembly elections.
The 15 BJP seats that recorded a lower voter turnout in Saurashtra-Kutch include former chief minister Vijay Rupani’s Rajkot West (-11.42 per cent), Jasdan (-11.47 per cent), Jetpur (-7.72 per cent), Jamnagar North (-7.68 per cent), Jamnagar South (-7.28 per cent), Morbi (-5.48 per cent), Rajkot East (-5.08 per cent) and Rajkot South (-5.62 per cent).
Other BJP seats that saw a noticeable decline include Gandhidham (-6.68 per cent), Mandvi (-5.29 per cent), Bhuj (-5.16 per cent), Dhari (-7.24 per cent), Bhavnagar East (-4.52 per cent), Gadhada (-5.72 per cent) and Manavadar (-4.74 per cent).
On the other hand, the Congress seats that saw a decline of four per cent or more include Dhoraji (-6.03 per cent), Kalavad (-5.40 per cent), Junagadh (-4.77 per cent), Visavadar (-6.93 per cent), Talala (-6.83 per cent) and Amreli (-6.93 per cent).
Interestingly, a similar trend was observed in 2017 when the voter turnout in 17 of the 36 seats held by the BJP was lower by four per cent or more. The saffron party had then lost eight of the 17 seats to the Congress. On other hand, only 11 Congress seats had recorded a lower turnout but the Opposition party had managed to hold on to them all.
While the Congress managed to increase its tally to 30 seats against the 16 it had won in 2012 in the Saurashtra-Kutch region, the BJP’s numbers had shrunk to 23.
Noticeably, Morbi, Jasdan, Manavadar, Dhari and Gadhada were originally won by the Congress in the 2017 Assembly elections. However, Brijesh Merja, Kunvarji Bavaliya, Jawahar Chavda, JV Kakadiya and Pravin Maru, the Congress MLAs the from respective seats later defected to the BJP. Save Maru, the rest won the subsequent bypolls to their seats as
BJP nominees and therefore, are sitting BJP MLAs.
Bavaliya and Chavda were ministers in the Rupani government until they were replaced in September, 2021. Merja, on the other hand, is a minister in the outgoing Bhupendra Patel government that succeeded Rupani’s government. Among the turncoats, Bavaliya, Chavda and Kakadiya are seeking re-election as BJP candidates this election.
Harshad Ribadiya and Bhagwan Barad, the Congress MLAs from Visavadar and Talala seats respectively, too, switched over to the BJP in October and November this year and are contesting as BJP candidates.
Barring its sitting MLAs from Gandhidham, Jasdan, Jetpur, Dhari and Manavadar, the BJP has denied tickets to its sitting MLAs from the remaining nine seats and instead, has fielded fresh faces. On the other hand, the Congress has given mandates to its sitting MLAs from Dhoraji, Kalavad, Junagadh and Amreli, while bringing in new faces in Visavadar and Talala after the defections.