Ever since the Election Commission declared 9 and 14 December as the polling dates for Gujarat, the news front seems to have been taken over by the two main political parties — BJP and Congress. But there are many other, such as Sharad Yadav-led JDU, Nitish Kumar’s faction of JDU and the Shiv Sena, that add variety to the poll potpourri.
The state with 182 seats has traditionally seen a two-way contest between the BJP and the Congress and since 1995 the BJP has been in power with Congress in the opposition. However, with the latest rise of the Patidar, OBC and Dalit leaders, the otherwise mechanised electoral process in the state is witnessing a different trend.
BJP, though confident, is being seen on the backfoot with Hardik Patel of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and the Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani taking a stand against the state government. These local socio-political units run successfully by young leaders add a unique flavour to the elections this time.
Patidars represents 12.3% of the population of Gujarat and the community dominates in about 46 seats in Gujarat, while the community vote can influence election results in about 105 seats. Whereas Dalit voters can affect the outcome on at least 13 seats. Together the two categories can influence the outcome on 120 odd seats out of the total of 182 seats in the Gujarat assembly. As both the factions are seen to be hobnobbing with the Congress, this time the party can gain from the pre-election tie-up.
BJP, on the other hand, is fighting a multi-faced opposition along with the two-decade-long anti-incumbency in Gujarat. What has made matters crucial for the ruling party is that Congress is working to be the focal point for all anti-BJP groups in the state, which has added to its electoral charm and given it an advantage at the grassroots level.
The BJP-led central government under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is also facing the problem of its central allies. BJP’s partner in the Maharashtra Assembly, Shiv Sena, has declared its intention to fight the Gujarat elections as independently. The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, which is having issues with BJP in Maharashtra, has decided to contest 50 to 75 seats in the state.
The other ally of BJP, Nitish Kumar led JD(U) that joined the NDA is also fighting Gujarat elections as independently.
Then there is other JD(U) faction led by Sharad Yadav, who plans to fight the Gujarat Assembly Elections 2017 under the Congress alliance. The JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav on Wednesday asked all anti-BJP parties to pitch together for a “minimum division” of opposition vote to defeat the BJP.
With this variety of offering, the Gujarat elections and the results would be interesting to watch. The election result would be excitedly and eagerly awaited by all political parties as it is being termed as a referendum on the BJP-led central government and more importantly the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his agenda of development which has been marred by public outcry on the demonetisation and the GST implementation.