WILL THE GUJARAT ELECTIONS BE A REFLECTION OF THE NATIONAL MOOD?

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Gujarat elections to set the stage for 2019 Lok Sabha battle

The Gujarat elections are not about Gujarat alone—all eyes are on the 2019 general elections.

A thumping win in the Gujarat elections slated for December would not only pave the way for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) victory in 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign but also boost its performance in other state elections.

For Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the election in his home state is a battle for prestige, with “development” being his slogan. Modi is likely to start a whirlwind campaign of the state later this month by addressing dozens of public rallies and holding roadshows. The party’s campaign “Hun chu vikas, hun chu Gujarat“ (I am development, I am Gujarat) is woven around its star campaigner Modi. This is similar to a 2012 campaign slogan: “Hun Modi no manas chu” (I am Modi’s man).

“If the 2012 Gujarat elections where the BJP won for the third successive time under Modi as its CM was a personal battle for the race for the prime ministerial post, the 2017 Gujarat elections are now of national significance both for Modi and the BJP. A reduction in its numbers could mean that the Modi juggernaut can be challenged and will galvanize opposition forces for the 2019 elections,” said Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst.

A poor performance or loss in Gujarat elections could seriously hurt the party’s future prospects as it has made known an ambitious target of winning 150 seats. The BJP won 115 seats in the 2012 elections and won all 26 Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

For the Congress, and its vice president Rahul Gandhi, the Gujarat elections are seen as an attempt to revive its position in the run-up to 2019. Gandhi, who is likely to be elevated as Congress president, is looking at Gujarat to set the stage.

The BJP has been in power in Gujarat for the last four terms and is contesting to continue its unprecedented winning streak. The Congress has been out of power since the mid-1980s, although it has supported other parties to form a government in Gujarat. It is now hoping for a revival in the prime minister’s home state.

The 150 seats target by the BJP is aimed at breaking the record of 149 seats that the Congress won back in 1985 under the leadership of Madhavsinh Solanki.

While BJP president Amit Shah is expected to be camping in Gujarat for the next month and a half, Modi, who has regularly visited Gujarat following Anandiben Patel’s resignation as chief minister last year, will start participating in a massive election campaign from mid-November onwards, according to a Gujarat BJP official.

Gandhi has also increased the frequency of his visits to Gujarat in the past few months, in anticipation of the announcement of the election dates. Gandhi has been trying to forge an alliance with dynamic young leaders Alpesh Thakor of other backward classes (OBC), Hardik Patel of the Patidar community, and Dalit leader Jignesh Patel to defeat the BJP.

While Congress leaders have hit out at the Gujarat BJP and Modi for their development model, the prime minister has been constantly on an inauguration spree for various development projects in the state over the last six months.

“This time, the main election issue is of development. The opposition party is criticizing GST and demonetisation, and BJP’s thumping victory will give a befitting reply to all such critics. This election will be a verdict on PM Modi’s leadership and his vision and will clear the way for the party’s victory for 2019 elections as well,” according to the BJP official quoted above.

A Congress spokesperson, who did not wish to be named, said that the Gujarat elections would expose the chinks in Modi’s development model that was used as a major poll plank to win the 2014 elections. He claimed that the Gujarat elections would mark a comeback for Congress and Gandhi.

Gujarat elections will be held in two phases on 9 December and 14 December. The results, to be declared on 18 December, is likely to have a strong bearing on states such as Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where elections will be held before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

SOURCE – LIVEMINT

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