By: Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit
In Gujarat, BJP creates a history by getting 156 seats out of 182 (majority mark being 92). The saffron brigade smashed its own record of the highest 127 seats in 2002 under Narendra Modi as the CM. This has created a record in seventh consecutive term for the BJP, which has been ruling the state for 27 years since 1995. Gujarat had three chief ministers including the incumbent Bhupendra Patel since 2014 after Modi became prime minister. Modi was chief minister for 13 years. The massive verdict reflects people’s trust in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.
This time BJP was not fighting the Gujarat state election to avert defeat but to increase its victory margins and win a greater number of seats in the 182-member assembly. BJP was eyeing a seventh straight win in Gujarat by banking on Hindutva tones and heavy dose of developmental projects, and even after denying tickets to 38 MLAs to beat anti-incumbency. The electoral battle in Gujarat is also crucial for the BJP because it is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been at the helm of leadership in the state for the past 21 years, and the people of the state have expressed their unflinching support for him for over two decades. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership in the last two decades, he has always put forward an idea that is for the benefit of people in Gujarat and also nationally.
PM Modi had during his intensive Gujarat campaign urged people to help sitting CM Bhupendra Patel surpass the 2002 record. When the BJP came to power in the state in 1995, it won 121 seats; that peaked at 127 in the first election with Narendra Modi as chief minister in 2002, after the vicious riots earlier that year. In the second Modi-led election in 2007, the BJP got 117 seats; in 2012, it bagged 115 seats. The ruling party always counts on the plank of Hindutva, development and “double engine” growth. The BJP, which had won 115 seats in 2012, had come down to 99 in 2017 primarily because of a spirited campaign waged by the Congress. The development model in Gujarat has been time and again cited by the BJP during the poll seasons over the years ever since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls were held. The grand old party’s campaign in the state was largely muted with the Bharat Jodo Yatra being held in other parts of the country. PM Modi held more than 30 rallies in the home state. Among other top BJP leaders that campaigned were UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Minister Smriti Irani. The two Gujaratis – Narendra Modi and Amit Shah – are currently the top two leaders of India also had a wide appeal among the state’s voters. Further, electing the BJP is also a prestige issue for a substantial section of Gujaratis. BJP never take the elections lightly. It understands people’s exhaustion with the saffron party at the state level and has been making amends from time to time. In the last state election of 2017, when the BJP’s performance dipped, it was largely due to the Patidar agitation then led by Hardik Patel, that fore grounded issues of rural distress and lack of growth.
Hardik Patel has now joined the BJP, more than 15 Congress MLAs joined the BJP, and Alpesh Thakur, the leader of the Thakur community movement, joined the BJP, thus the BJP got benefit.. BJP’s decision to make Bhupendra Patel chief minister last year and bring the quota stir spearhead Hardik Patel into its fold has also worked in the party’s favour. PM also inaugurated two key national events including the National Games and the Defence Expo 2022, both held in Gujarat. The party denied tickets to senior leaders such as former chief minister Vijay Rupani and former deputy chief minister Nitin Patel and opted for new faces such as former Patidar quota leader Hardik Patel, cricketer Ravindra Jadeja’s wife Rivaba Jadeja and OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, among others.
In 2022 Gujarat, there are new props, such as the world’s largest stadium in Ahmedabad, named after Narendra Modi, in which Modi gave a knockout performance at the inauguration of the National Games.
BJP knows how to shield election outcomes from ground realities such as people’s hardships, leaderless govt and corrupt bureaucracy. The BJP is of the opinion that young talent should be given a chance. The BJP is on a very strong wicket. Modi had worked to change that as he packaged himself as the friend of industrialists, a supporter of the free market and a protector of Gujarat. He has organised summits named Vibrant Gujarat etc.
Remember that Gujaratis are walking with confidence in the world today only because of Modi. One thing is clear that the BJP’s leader, Narendra Modi, cast himself as the right man in the right place at the right time. The BJP’s electoral success in Gujarat is largely attributed to Modi’s and Amit Shah’s charisma and the politics of religious polarisation and strident nationalism. (The author is a freelance journalist & a cartoonist based in Ahmedabad. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)