The fight for Gujarat in 2017 Assembly elections is now reaching its crescendo with all major political parties honing their electoral strategies to score a better numbers.
The incumbent government led by Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) under Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and party president Amit Shah along with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi have set their priorities in order and are working on a well thought out plan to score a victory in Gujarat.
The BJP leadership has been vocal regarding the introduction of new faces to counter the anti-incumbency factor, a practice the party follows across India.
The tactic seems to be the trend in Gujarat, as the party dropped 26 of its sitting MLAs in their 4 list. A slew of new faces has been brought in to counter the opposition, with 16 new candidates featuring in the first list and 19 new names appearing in the second list. The party has released about 135 names till now, which covers all 89 seats which will go to polls in the first phase on December 9.
Sources said, BJP plans to counter the split in its vote bank due to the new breed of leaders like Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mewani, who are targeting voters on caste and religious lines, by using their better booth management experience in the state that the party has governed since 1995.
BJP has planned to capture a higher number of voters per booth by deploying more party workers, from 10-15 workers till the last election to about 30 workers per booth with a target of managing just 25-30 voters. The party insiders say the idea is to capture 10 percent more voters to negate the effect of the joint opposition against it in the coming elections.
The 2017 Gujarat Election is witnessing a change of image for the Congress, who is not seen to be pursuing Muslim votes with as much rigour as it has done in the past. The idea is to adopt a ‘soft Hindutva’ image so as not to alienate the much larger Hindu vote. But, the change in Congress’s Muslim appeasement policy is an opportunity for the BJP which is seen to be closing up to the Muslims to shore up the community vote.
Though the party has not fielded even a single Muslim candidate, it is asking the community to vote for it as under its long rule the number of caste clashes has substantially reduced.
The party leaders now are seen openly wooing Muslim voters like in Limbayat, near Surat where the BJP leaders were photographed hugging Muslim men in skull caps during a political event. Dr Azam Raza, a BJP leader from the minority community is now often seen canvassing for the BJP in the communally sensitive constituency of Limbayat.
Similar activities named as ‘Sadbhavna’ meetings are being planned or are underway in areas like Khadia-Jamalpur constituency of Behrampura.
If reports are to be believed the party is also roping in BJP’s minority morcha members from other states to help bolster the campaign in minority areas under the leadership of its minority morcha vice-president Irfan Ahmed.
The party is also using the minority arm of the RSS, the Rashtriya Muslim Manch, which plans to bring in 50 Muslim clergies from across BJP ruled States to canvass for the BJP in Muslim dominated constituencies.
BJPs plan to use a multi-pronged strategy is an excellent way to counter the effects of years of anti-incumbency and other social-political factors it faces in Gujarat.