Friday, March 24, 2017

To beat anti-incumbency in Gujarat, BJP may project Amit Shah and advance polls

The BJP may try to beat the strong anti-incumbency wave and a perceivedindifference of Patidar voters in the western state of Gujarat by advancing the assembly elections - which are otherwise due by November-December this year.According to party sources, poll strategists in the saffron party also feel maximum electoral benefits can be obtained by encashing the strong 'pro Narendra Modi wave,' as was seen during the recently-held Uttar Pradesh elections. "Advancing the polls may help BJP better as the impact of UP victory can be made use of," a source said.

Meanwhile, sources said BJP's ally, Nagaland People's Front (NPF) is also in favour of Assembly polls. In Nagaland, polls are due in March 2018. However, the state's new Chief Minister Shurhozelie is not an MLA and has to face election by next six months.
To keep the momentum of Uttar Pradesh poll victory, the BJP poll managers in Gujarat have also decided to make optimum use of a slogan -- coined lately by party workers in the western state: 'UP Mein 325, Gujarat mein 150'.
 Gujarat has 182-member Assembly and BJP has been in power for the last two decades - while the contest in the state will be always taken as a prestige battle for the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo. 
In its 19-year rule, Mr Modi was the Chief Minister from October 2001 to May 2014 -- with the saffron party recording convincing victory in 2002, 2007 and 2012 assembly polls. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won all 24 seats in the state.
In 2012 assembly polls, the BJP won 116 seats as against 60 by Congress. 

However, it may not be a cakewalk to win the 2017 
Assembly polls as the state does not have any strong leader. The incumbent Vijay Rupani is a low-profile leader and was chosen only after having faced a major anti-BJP campaign by Patels (or Patidars) - after the party chose to replace its Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in August last year.
"Mr Amit Shah can play a Manohor Parrikar in Gujarat as winning Gujarat too will be very vital" a party source said.
Mr Shah was made BJP chief in July 2014 and his stipulated three-year stint as the national president of the saffron party ends on July 9.      
BJP's challenge in Gujarat has increased in the state as the battle is no longer confined only against the Congress.
By 2015-16, on one hand, Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party has tried to establish the toehold in Gujarat on the other - all eyes would be on the Patidar community and a mere – 1993-born 23-year-old Patel boy Hardik Patel - who sort of challenged BJP's grip over Gujarat politics in 2015.
In July 2015 Patidar youth, many of whom are surnamed ‘Patel’, started public demonstrations across Gujarat demanding Other Backward Class (OBC) status for their community, which would entitle Patidars to a reserved quota of places in government jobs and education. Social media also helped to spread the protest quickly across the state. Protest meetings by Patidars soon were reported from Devbhoomi Dwarka, Gandhinagar, Navsari, Jam Jodhpur in Jamnagar district, Himmatnagar and Bagasara in Amreli district and in Rajkot.
         According to an estimate, in 55 days, as many as 149 rallies were organised throwing a major challenge to the 'Moditva phenomenon' in Narendra Modi’s own political backyard.
The party is yet to draw the poll strategy for Gujarat, but the wind of possibility of advancing the Assembly elections has been heard, even among leaders of other parties.
A vocal Biju Janata Dal MP, Tathagata Satpathy tweeted today: "PM speaks of simultaneous elections to save exchequer. Internal sources suggest advancement of Gujarat elections. Fun times ahead!"
When contacted BJD sources later said, "many people have heard about advancing of Gujarat polls".
Out of power in the state since 1997, the Congress has also started gearing up the poll machinery.
Senior party leader Gurudas Kamat has urged the Gujarat Congress leaders to give up factional feuds, even as the party may not project a chief ministerial candidate. In the past, in order to fight pro-Hindutva slant of BJP, Congress mostly tried to bank on Shankersinh Vaghela, a former BJP and RSS leader. 
The Congress may be willing to work out an alliance with smaller parties like NCP and JD(U) to avoid division of anti-incumbency votes against the BJP, sources said here.  
Meanwhile, BJP MPs from Gujarat - who attended a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah among others declined to comment on the possibility of early elections in the state. 
However, sources said the BJP leadership is somewhat disturbed by the recent happenings in the state, including the Patidar agitation of 2015 - who want a OBC quota and also reports about Dalit resentment over cow vigilantism incidents in 2016. 



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