The ruling BJP is not only facing a 27-year term, but also an aggressive Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is just emerging from its landslide victory in Punjab, and a resurgent Congress that is slowly closing the gap against the party. of saffron in terms of seats and voting share.
In the 2017 election, the BJP managed to win 99 seats, the worst performance since 1990. Congress won 77 seats, the best result since 1985, when it won a record 149 seats in the 182-seat assembly.
Congress, however, suffered a series of defections and subsequently the BJP tally rose to 111. Congress was reduced to 62.
The last time Gujarat saw a significant three-way contest was in 1990, when Janata Dal (JD) won 70 seats, BJP 67 and Congress 33. JD and BJP earned at the expense of Congress, in largely thanks to their pre-survey alliance and smart seat sharing formula.
Here’s a look at the factors that are likely to play a key role in upcoming polls:
- Anti-incumbency: The BJP’s 27-year majority rule, from 1995 onwards, has led to growing dissatisfaction in some sectors of society. People believe that inflation, unemployment and fundamental life issues have remained unresolved even after so many years of BJP rule.
- Collapse of the Morbi bridge: the collapse of a suspension bridge that caused 135 victims in Morbi brought to the fore the link between the administration and wealthy businessmen. The problem is likely to dominate people’s minds when they go to vote.
- Government Jobs: Frequent paper leaks and postponement of government recruitment exams have dashed the hopes of young people working hard to get a job in government, causing much resentment.
- Early release of the inmates of the Bilkis Bano case: Gujarat is considered the Hindutva laboratory of the Sangh Parivar. The impact of the remission of sentences of convicts for the gang rape and murder of Bilkis Bano will unfold differently for the majority and minority communities. Muslims are demanding justice for Bilkis Bano, while some Hindus would like to ignore the issue.
- Minority Vote Bank: Muslims, who represent around 9% of Gujarat’s population, could look beyond Congress this time. While Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM courted them vigorously, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal kept silent on common issues such as the “jihad of love” and the release of inmates from the Bilkis Bano case.
- High Electricity Rates: Gujarat has one of the highest electricity tariffs in the country. People are looking forward to receiving offers from the Aam Aadmi Party and Congress to give 300 free units per month. Southern Gujarat Chambers of Commerce and Industry recently called for a reduction in the commercial electricity tariff, saying they have to pay Rs 7.50 per unit while their industry counterparts in Maharashtra and Telangana have to pay Rs 4 per unit.
- Land purchase: Dissatisfaction among farmers and landowners whose land is being purchased for various government projects. Farmers, for example, opposed the acquisition of land for a high-speed train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. They also opposed the acquisition of land for the freeway project between Vadodara and Mumbai.
- Problems with farmers: Farmers are agitating in different parts of the state as they have not received compensation for crop loss due to excessive rainfall in the past two years.
- Lack of basic education and health facilities in rural areas: If classrooms are built in remote rural areas, there is a shortage of teachers. And if teachers are hired, there is a lack of classrooms that affect education. The lack of basic health centers and doctors also negatively affects health services in rural pockets.
- Bad Roads: Gujarat was formerly known for its good roads. However, in the past five or six years, the state government and municipal corporations have not been able to build good roads or maintain old roads. Complaints of potholed roads are common from across the state.
The protagonists of the elections:
The BJP has an ace in the form of Prime Minister Modi, who was Prime Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014.
It has been eight years since he left the presidency, but his influence on followers in his home state is still intact and several political observers say he will be a big deciding factor in the upcoming elections.
In addition to Prime Minister Modi, Union Interior Minister Amit Shah has also scoured the state in recent months.
The current prime minister, Bhupendra Patel, is likely to give the BJP a change of fight against anti-incumbency because of its clean image and righteous caste: the patidars are the bulwark of the BJP. Patel is on every poster and frame with PM Modi.
Meanwhile, the AAP has waged an aggressive campaign in the state with national party organizer Arvind Kejriwal who promised voters important giveaways in public and other services. The strategy made the AAP the third force along with a subservient Congress in the state.
The AAP has been relentless in its criticisms of the BJP on electricity, education and health – key factors that could decide the elections.
(With input from agencies)