Ahmedabad, December 19
The BJP is keen to advance Assembly elections in Gujarat. Parleys to advance the election has been initiated at the top level in the BJP and the RSS. As per schedule, elections are supposed to be held in December 2017 but the BJP is contemplating to prepone it by at least six months. A top BJP leader told Mirror that early elections clearly benefit the BJP. A section of the BJP also feels that ‘there should be a total revamp and even the chief ministerial candidate of BJP should be changed”. This is under discussion. While one section feels that Chief Minister Vijay Rupani+ is not even six months old and imposing another chief ministerial candidate may not augur well for the party, some other senior leaders strongly believe that Rupani lacks the appeal to lead the party in the crucial 2017 polls.
They feel that the best way to counter Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress is by throwing up a leader belonging to Other Backward Class (OBC) as the party’s chief ministerial candidate. Nearly 45% of the state’s population falls under various OBC categories. This includes 32.5% percentage in rural areas. An OBC chief ministerial candidate could hugely upset the Congress and AAP calculations. It could also consolidate the OBCs against the Patidars who are demanding affirmative action. However, the only catch is, would the public be ready to accept a third chief minister from the same party in a year’s time? A senior BJP leader told Mirror, “No announcement in this regard is likely to come in before end of January but there definitely is a movement to prepone polls in Gujarat.
We feel this will benefit us.” BJP has been doing phenomenally well in Gujarat since 2002. At present, BJP has 123 of the 182 seats in the State Assembly. A source, a BJP leader with strong connections in Delhi, told Mirror, “A new chief ministerial candidate for the party has not yet been decided so I cannot comment on this but at the moment current Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and senior BJP leader Shankar Chaudhry’s names are doing the rounds. A dark horse may also emerge.” RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is camping in Gujarat since last four days. He is leading a four-day pracharak meeting, chalking out strategies to woo tribals into the BJP fold. He has already spoken to nearly 200 people. “The BJP and RSS are ready for elections in Gujarat,” an RSS leader said.
“We are ready to go to polls along with UP and Punjab. In fact, that will benefit us largely,” a BJP minister said. Mirror spoke to over 18 different BJP and RSS leaders.
Reasons BJP wants early elections in Gujarat
1. At present, the mood in Gujarat is that the inconveniences of demonetization are temporary. The general consensus is ‘Narendrabhai has introduced demonetisation to check black money and terrorism’. The BJP feels that as days pass, this pro-BJP sentiment in Gujarat could convert into skepticism.
2. The Patidars and their andolan is amajor issue in Gujarat. The Patels are not in majority in Gujarat but they can stake claim for maximum political influence. Out of 182 seats, 37 Patidars are elected MLAs. Patels can influence up to 80 Assembly seats in Gujarat. At present, Patel leader Hardik has been banned by the courts from entering Gujarat. The Patels and BJP have reached no compromise yet. The situation is expected to get worse.
3. On the whole, 2016-17 has been a good year rainfall wise. The BJP is keen on taking a chance, considering the good rainfall in state. In case of poor rainfall next year coupled by demonetisation, the rural scenario in Gujarat can change which may not be to BJP’s benefit.
4. Patidar leader Hardik has teamed up with Nitish Kumar. Nitish is visiting Gujarat in January-end. The BJP feels it should not give Hardik and Nitish time to set up their political game plan in Gujarat. If elections are held in December as per schedule, both Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Nitish could get nearly a year to set up operations in Gujarat.
5. The BJP has changed a chief minister recently. Anandiben Patel was unceremoniously dropped and Rupani was made the CM in her stead. This, however, has not calmed the social unrest, especially of Dalits and Patidars in Gujarat. Over the months, this unrest is only likely to accelerate to BJP’s disadvantage.
6. Gujaratis are oriented towards entrepreneurship. Of late, the economy has been facing a slump. In coming days, the micro-, small-, and medium scale (MSM) industry is going to be impacted further.
7. The Congress in Gujarat has yet not got its act together. In urban areas, even if there is a disillusionment towards the BJP, there is no new-found love for the Congress. The state Congress leaders have so far done nothing concrete to tap the frustration of the common man (and woman) following demonetisation.
8 And perhaps the most important reason why BJP is contemplating early polls in Gujarat could be the growing influence of Aam Aadmi Party. First, AAP captured the imagination of the politically and economically influential Patidars in Gujarat. Then, the Dalits after the tragic flogging in Una. Slowly and steadily, AAP has made significant inroads in rural Gujarat and among youth and women in urban Gujarat.
If AAP does well in Punjab and Goa, their presence in Gujarat could increase manifold. Indications of an early election in Gujarat
1. Increased political activity. The prime minister has visited Gujarat four times in less than two months. This could be a sign of the party wanting to seek an early mandate. The prime minister’s last visit to Banaskantha throws up the probability of an OBC leader being pushed by the BJP. Banaskantha is the home state of BJP leader Shankar Chaudhry. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also belongs to OBC. In Congress, the OBC faction is represented by party president Bharatsinh Solanki.
2. Increased political activity by the Congress, AAP, JDU etc Rahul Gandhi will be visiting Gujarat on Wednesday. Nitish Kumar is coming in January.
Hardik Patel plans to further consolidate the Patidar agitation. AAP has begun an outreach programme which has been well-received even in urban areas of Gujarat.
3. Increased activity and ground work by RSS including shibirs and personal outreach programme. The personal guidance of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to bring back tribals into the Hindutva fold, besides organising Hindu sammelans.
4. PM Modi will be spending more time for the Vibrant Gujarat summit. The forthcoming Vibrant Gujarat 2017 is being publicised more than what it was in 2015 held under the chief ministership of Anandiben Patel.
5. Revamped prohibition policy in tune of Bihar model as demanded by the Patidars and OBCs in the state.
Ahmedabad, December 19