In the present Gujarat assembly, the BJP has 115 seats and the Congress has 61 seats out of the total 182 seats. And this time, Amit Shah has announced that he and his party will target to win 150 seats in the election. The BJP has been ruling the state since 1995 and has a firm grip on the state.
Gujarat election is a matter of pride for Modi and the BJP. Many suggest it to be the semifinal before the Lok Sabha 2019. The election will also pave a way for the opposition to revive, unite and stop the unbeatable run of the BJP.
Rahul Gandhi is all set to take over as the party president soon. What would be more appropriate than the Gujarat assembly elections to revive the Congress by challenging the BJP in its stronghold?
Modi is projected as ‘Vikas Purush’ and the only leader of the contemporary Indian politics, who can make India as strong as many Indians dream. The results for the Gujarat election on 18 December 2017 will decide whether Modi is going to remain as strong as he is or if the aftermath of the economic slowdown down due to demonetization and GST has dented his image.
The 90s saw the BJP’s rise in national politics as well as in Gujarat, riding on the wave of Hindutva politics created by the Rath Yatra in 1990. Modi also played a role in the Yatra to probably pave a way for BJP to gain power in Gujarat.
The BJP made a strategy to reap in the anti-Congress sentiments of Patidars, Brahmins, who were protesting and demanding reservations in education and government jobs, in their favour apart from the traditional formula to organise Kshatriyas (Thakors), Harijan, Adivasis and Dalit (KHAM).
After the BJP came to power in 1995, Modi and Shah worked together to destroy the Congress leadership in the rural areas. They employed a strategy to find the second most influential leaders in every village and manage all of them to join the BJP. This way, they created a network of 8,000 influential leaders.
Modi became general secretary of the BJP in the early 1990s. He convinced Patel to appoint Shah as the Chairman of the Gujarat State Financial Corporation, a public sector financial institution which finances small and medium-scale enterprises.
In 1999, Amit Shah was elected as Chairman of the richest District Co-operative Bank of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. After this Modi and Amit Shah never looked back.
Patidars are the economically and politically influential class of the Gujarat constituting around 16% of the population, spread over the region of Saurashtra and Kutch consisting of about one-third of the total 182 assembly seats.
The influence of the Patidar community can be seen by the fact that when Vijay Rupani took over as the new chief minister, succeeding Anandiben after the Patidar protest led by Hardik Patel in 2015, he increased the number of Patidar ministers to eight from six in his cabinet of 24 ministers. Rahul Gandhi too had begun his ‘Navsarjan Gujarat Yatra‘ by visiting the Patidar-dominated areas.
The Patel agitation led by a young graduate was started with a rally in the year 2015 with a demand for OBC status. This protest had become so influential that Anandiben was forced to resign from the post of chief minister after she failed to curb it.
Nitin Patel, the deputy CM of the state, also said that there would be a special inquiry commission headed by a retired High Court judge to look into the demands of Patidar before the assembly election.
During the early 80s, when Madhavsinh Solanki had announced reservations for the economically and socially backward class on the recommendation of Bakshi Commission, there was a protest and agitation by Patels, Brahmins and other upper castes.
The Patidars have been protesting and demanding OBC status for a long time. However, they have also voted regularly for the BJP for a long time.
If the BJP loses in Gujarat, it will be a major setback for Modi and the party. Gujarat is, after all, the model state which was sold by Modi in the Lok Sabha election of 2014 and other elections thereafter, the model that is to be followed for prosperity.