After a very long time and for the first time after new century has clocked, state elections in Gujarat too have turned interesting. When Narendra Modi was at the helm of state affairs leading the party and government, it was always a one sided contest. The Congress, led by former BJP leader and once friend of Modi, Shankersinh Vaghela was continuously deprived of even thinking of putting up a good fight.
With Modi moving away from his native state to take care of India, Congress has sensed a new opportunity. Normally, when any strong leader leads an organisation, there would be no second rung leaders and the same was true even for BJP. Of course, there was Amit Shah but he always remained an alter-ego of Modi and moved to Delhi along with his friend to take care of BJP’s interests in all states.
As expected the new chief minister Anandi Ben Patel could not last long and had to go infamously after she posted her resignation over facebook. Vijay Rupani, the current CM had large shoes to fill that were made ever wider by Anandi Ben.
Apart from their own problems, BJP had to face the revolt by their own staunch supporters, the Patel community. Hardik Patel emerged as the face of representing the youth of the community, though he was mired in many a controversies. The now failed movement for reservations for the Patidar community was never supposed to be a success. Because by asking reservations for the community, Patidars of Gujarat have undermined their entrepreneurial skills of Gujaratis and equated themselves with other masses that have studied only to work for others. True the Patels have aggrieved of not getting selected for Medical seats (I don’t see any other discipline where they intend to join), but then there are so many other communities.
Anyway, the movement itself has become controversial when Hardik Patel was accused of amassing wealthy by his colleague Chirag Patel. Nurturing national ambitions Hardik Patel travelled the country and moved close to AAP. While Chirag Patel announced he would form a new party to provide an alternative to BJP and Congress, even Hardik Patel and AAP are expected to do so.
However, the loss of face to AAP in Goa, Punjab and even in MCD had forced the party to rethink its strategy. Some of AAP leaders think the party should contest all seats, while some feel they should not contest at all. A compromise formula of contesting those seats where they have chance to win is now being considered.
While the new entrants were trying to irritate the both old parties i.e., BJP and Congress, BJP had already entered into the race with no opposition. Immediately after winning MCD General Amit Shah declared a new goal to conquer – his home state.
For Amit Shah, winning Gujarat with unprecedented majority is very much needed.
First, all detractors of Modi-Shah combine within the party would be silenced for a long time. Second, it is time to identify potential second rung leadership in the state as BJP cannot afford to intervene in state affairs continuously from Delhi. So, equipped with many wins across nation under his sleeve, Amit Shah returned to conquest his home terrain – once more.
However, after the Patidar movement aging warrior Shankersinh Vaghela sensed his moment of opportunity. He wanted to lead the Congress to a victory before he rests forever. Notwithstanding recent failures, Vaghela wanted Prashant Kishor, who knows intricacies of BJP’s electoral preparations to help him out. But, he wants to lead the fight. And, here he faced a road block in the form of Rahul Gandhi, star campaigner of BJP. Rahul Gandhi is willing to replace Bharat Sinh Solanki, but is interested to appoint another leader from OBC sections and not from Kshatriya clan to which Shankersinh Vaghela belongs to.
Frustrated with internal politics of Gujarat Congress, Shankersinh Vaghela distanced himself from party affairs. Of course, he commands respect in local circles of Congress as the only Congress leader to have some ground support. It is known how adamant Rahul Gandhi is when he decides something. It took an intervention from Sonia Gandhi to let him accede to Captain Amarinder Singh’s request so Congress could regain power in that state. With such low political acumen coupled with stubbornness, Rahul Gandhi had played his part to thwart any real progress that Congress could make in the state. Only point that helps him is unlike the Badals in Punjab, BJP in Gujarat is not on a shaky ground. At the best, it would be a great attempt if Congress could match BJP even if it means losing narrowly. Even Sankar Singh Vaghela know how hard the battle for Congress in Gujarat will be.
Sensing an opportunity, Amit Shah met with Shankersinh Vaghela recently though nothing much on politics was discussed.
In pure political sense, Shankersinh Vaghela would bring Thakur votes to BJP. Yet, the state is ripe with rumours of ‘Ghar Wapsi’ by Vaghela giving heart-attacks to Congress. Even after meeting Vaghela, Bharat Sinh Solanki was not clear what was in the mind of Shankersinh Vaghela. Adding to the woes of Congress was the result of their own survey conducted last year after the Patidar agitation that concluded BJP will win 97 seats. Congress was expected to win only 85 seats in the assembly with 182 seats, if it is lucky.
Much time has passed since last year. BJP is now a rejuvenated with recent wins in other states, even as Congress high command could not claim the victory in Punjab as theirs. Inherent to its legacy, even now the main problem Congress facing is not winning Gujarat elections, but sending Ahmed Patel to Rajya Sabha again. The eyes and ears of Congress high command, Ahmed Patel was one of the typical Congress sycophants with no ground support, but in a party like Congess, what one needs is the ear of the Boss.
Congress is now losing sleep whether Shankersinh Vaghela would orchestrate a cross voting in the current assembly and prevent Ahmed Patel’s chances of going to Rajya Sabha again. To ensure Ahmed Patel’s elevation, Congress has already declared all sitting MLAs will be party candidates in next election to prevent any possible desertions. Shankersinh Vaghela countered it saying MLAs are now aspiring to become ministers and enjoy power. Though Vaghela renounced the talk of him joining BJP time and again, Ahmed Patel is now a worried man. A worried Ahmed Patel means worried Sonia and the chain stops only when Shankersinh Vaghela worries for his own fate.
Shankersinh Vaghela already abhors the new entrants into the game as they would only bite into Congress share of votes. If really Hardik Patel aligns with Arvind Kejriwal, it would only enhance nuisance value of the opposition. If really Prashant Kishor would be with Vaghela in his last fight, PK may again try to stitch another ‘mahagathbandhan’, the only formula that worked for him outside BJP. Though he is averse to bet on losing sides, he may not have an option to refuse working for Congress.
Meanwhile, Amit Shah is on his mission 150 and was trying to galvanise the otherwise nonchalant party cadre and leaders, who have become complacent by continuously winning the state. Though they realise that Narendra Modi is no more leading them in the state, they still expect to win on his name. That particular line of thinking is Congressi in nature and Amit Shah abhors it. While the rains lash the state, Amit Shah may too tour the state mobilising forces to perhaps the grand fight that Gujarat elections have become now.
As of now, BJP win is certain. What is not clear is whether Amit Shah achieves his target of 150 or not. For Congress, it is more of a last fight to improve its tally and keep its flock together from desertion. For other contenders, it is another round of circus to entertain people.