Make or Break
It is a make or break election for both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). If BJP wins the said election, general elections in 2019 will virtually become a cakewalk for the party. On the other hand, if the Congress secures a win, it will not only be a remarkable comeback by the grand old party, but also will ignite the hopes of its numerous supporters of making a return to the power at the Centre sooner than later. Keeping in mind the importance of this election, both the Prime Minister and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi are making number of trips to Gujarat to woo the voters. According to opinion polls, the vote share difference between the Congress and BJP has been reduced to just six per cent, which was more than 11 percent in the 2012 election. So it is not difficult to understand that the fight is much closer this time.
Since mid-90’s, elections in Gujarat has turned in to a one-horse race. The western state, which is known as the laboratory of Rashtriya Swangsevek Sangha (RSS), the Hindutva outfit, made their presence felt in one of the advanced state of the country. Such was the dominance of the Saffron Brigade in Gujarat that BJP is in power for the last 22 years. But since the departure of Mr. Modi in 2014, things have started moving differently for the RSS-BJP combine. Suddenly the ruling party found itself buried under a very strong anti-incumbency sentiment. Difficulties for the BJP Government in Gujarat were further increased because of the agitating Patidars who were demanding reservations under the OBC quota. Patidars or Patels are the major strength of BJP in the state. So when they started agitation, others also came up with different demands. In wake of so many demands from various groups, the State Government appeared to be clueless and failed to bring normalcy in the State. If Patels were not happy with the government for not providing reservations to the community, the Dalits became angry after Una incident. Soon Patidars and Dalits were joined by OBCs too. It may be mentioned here that all three together comprise 70 per cent of Gujarat electorate. So to upset the caste equations, BJP is now appealing to the people to vote for development.
On the other hand, sensing cracks in BJP’s citadel, the Congress is going all out to dislodge the saffron party from the throne. The grand old party of Indian politics knows it very well that a victory in Gujarat may propel the party to the seat of power at the Centre too. So Rahul Gandhi is leaving no stone unturned to defeat BJP in the Gujarat election. The Congress has already reached to an understanding to various agitating communities promising to support their demands. The party has promised Patidars reservations under Article 31 of Indian Constitution. It has assured Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani about stopping atrocities on the community members and promised to give the Dalits proper representation at the national level. Congress has also roped in OBC leader Alpesh Thakore. Besides, Rahul Gandhi is making right noises over demonetisation and implementation of GST, the two steps taken by the Modi Government, which hurt the large business community of the state.
Beyond doubt the electoral battle for Gujarat is becoming more fierce and close with every passing day. The outcome of this election is very important as it will indicate which way the country will move in future.