BY Abdul hafiz lakhani:
BJP has contested 21 major Assembly elections after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister. However, Gujarat Assembly elections in December will be the first that the BJP will be contesting where it has a majority government in place. This is the first State in India where BJP is seeking a re-election on its own without any allies.This will also be the first Assembly election in the home turf of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah after becoming the Prime Minister and National BJP president respectively.
For a leader who had single-handedly steered BJP to three Assembly election victories in Gujarat — in 2002, 2007 and 2012 — Modi’s reliance on leaders from outside for the first time is an indication that the ground realities are changing and that the BJP is in for a tough battle. BJP sources admitted that the primary reason the Gujarat elections will be tough this time is that Modi is no longer the Chief Minister of the state and BJP is in power at the Centre.
“It is for the first time that we do not have a non-BJP government at the Centre and Modiji is not the CM,” said a senior BJP functionary. “When there was a Congress government at the Centre, the state BJP could always run a campaign blaming Delhi for problems of Gujarat — something it can no longer do,” the leader said.
Then, there is the problem of antiincumbency but it is not an issue that is not insurmountable, party sources said.
Sources also said the PM’s reliance on leaders from outside to shoulder the campaign responsibility — External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, UP CM Yogi Adityanath, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje — also indicate that the ground situation is not favourable. He also said the Gujarat BJP’s tactic also indicated paucity of local leaders. “There is not much state leadership left. Modi had ensured that and we are now seeing the result,” he said.
The BJP contested elections in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim, newly-formed State of Telangana, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Bihar, Delhi, Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand after Modi became the Prime Minister in May 2014. The BJP bagged power on its own in Haryana, Assam and Uttarakhand without its government being the incumbent. It wrested power from the Congress in the three States. In another 10 States — including Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, J&K, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Bihar, Goa, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh — the BJP headed NDA formed governments with help of alliance partners.
Out of the 21 elections fought by the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, BJP won 12. The Congress or Congress-led UPA was in power at 14 of these 21 Legislative Assemblies but Congress could retain power only in two relatively small ones of Arunachal Pradesh and Puducherry. The Congress fared miserably in most of the elections. The UPA could not retain any of the Assemblies. Kerala is the only State in India where Congress retained power with an ally. Bihar and Delhi were BJP’s biggest electoral setbacks after Modi became the PM.
However, political equations in Bihar changed later and BJP became a JDU ally. The impact of the forthcoming December Assembly elections in Gujarat will have national implications in consolidating or weakening the power of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Gujarat has been showcased as BJP’s Model State. Interestingly, Gujarat was the first State in India where the BJP formed its majority government in 1995.
The Narendra Modi government is adept at weaving a campaign narrative where it has not been wielding a majority power. This is the first time that the BJP will have to defend itself and its various policies. An overall analysis reflects that the BJP has gained enormously in electoral aspects in the last three-and-a-half years after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister which include forming governments for the first time in North Eastern States and impressive victory in UP.
Modi is actually fighting 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat now. If the BJP romps home with a respectable victory margin, Modi’s image of invincibility will be reinforced. The victory will also impact voters in other states where elections are coming up after Gujarat.