Though the Gujarat model has brought satisfactory results for the BJP in the past – these days, it has left the party’s proud politicians confused, with their nerves about to be weakened further. There’s also this impression that it has lost its charm among the emerging young turks.
There are certain views prevalent on Gujarat’s political horizon. “Three young caste leaders – Jignesh, Alpesh and Hardik – have emerged as a powerful counterpoint to religious politics,” writes the columnist, Sagarika Ghose. The crowd surging at the Patidar leader Hardik Patel’s election rally is a solid proof of the public’s avowal to the new leaders.
They are definitely backed by the Congress party, led by a not-so-youthful 47-year-old leader. They seem to have established themselves as mass leaders. Their personalities, unique sense of humour, blunt confidence and the unexpected warmth they have received among the people of Gujarat have compelled the ruling party to acknowledge the threat.
This was, to some extent, noticeable during a recent television debate among the BJP leader, KK Sharma, the RSS thinker, Avinash Awasthi, the Congress leader, Akhilesh Singh and the pro-Hardik politician Atul Patel. Though they were discussing a topic, none of them looked particularly biased in their opinions.
When Atul Patel started to speak about the panchayat and civic bodies’ poll figures, it seemed that the saffron party may indeed find it tough to re-establish its fading shine of the much-publicised Gujarat model. He also cited various instances which indicate that the nearly-quiet Congress indeed got a ray of hope in Gujarat. Apparently, this was also Rahul Gandhi’s motivation in launching a scathing attack on the ruling BJP in Gujarat.
In his opinion, rural and the semi-rural Gujarat can work wonders for the lifeless Congress party. Rahul Gandhi, is by now, quite certain of securing the votes of the Muslims, who account for about 10% of the state’s population. With the open support extended by the three popular young turks, he looks further sure of getting a majority of assembly seats in the Legislative Assembly.
If we provide details of the both the parties’ condition in the past years, we can evaluate the situation easily. According to news reports, the Congress wrested 23 out of 31 panchayat seats, securing about 48% of the votes in 2015 . The BJP, on the other hand, obtained only six panchayat seats with a vote share of around 44%. In 2010, the Congress had a 44% vote share, while the BJP held sway over as many as 30 panchayats with a 50.26% vote share. Similarly, the Congress won 134 of 230 taluka panchayats (up from the 67 it held in 2010) with a 46% vote share, while BJP could only gain a 42% vote share.
Further, the Congress could secure only 33 Assembly seats in 1990 – down from its record of 149 seats which it held in 1985. It got 45 seats in 1995, while the BJP secured a majority with 121 seats. In 1998, the Congress was able to win 53 seats, as compared to BJP’s 117. In 2002, its tally further decreased to 51. In 2007, Congress’ tally stood at 59, and in 2012, the party’s tally was 61. Despite the Congress’ successes in 2015, the BJP won all the six municipal corporations.
What all of this means for Gujarat will only be clear after December 18, 2017.