BJP in its recent electoral victories has managed to breach new fortresses and form government in states such as Assam and UP. Assam had the first BJP govt in the north east and UP happened to get the first BJP govt since Kalyan Singh. However such states welcomed BJP with open arms as their predecessors had a devastatingly bad track record. Invariably it was not difficult for the BJP to win as they highlighted these limitations which propelled them to govt formations. However, BJP now is set to fight elections in the states where they are already in power like MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Even if governance in these states was laudable, beating the trickling anti incumbency will be a formidable challenge of sorts.
When it comes to the next batch of assembly elections, Gujarat will be the first to face the test of BJP popularity and it will have a lot of importance and weight owing to basically two reasons.
Firstly, the anti incumbency will be tremendous considering the fact that BJP has ruled this state since the late 1990s. Since PM Modi has moved to Delhi, a little bit of grip was certainly lost by the BJP over the state. The Patidar agitation for reservations and a sort of debacle in lieu with Anandiben Patel certainly created a small dent in otherwise BJP dominated state since decades. Secondly, it’s the prestige issue. PM Modi nurtured his prime ministerial ambitions basking in Gujarat model and its popularity and so winning it becomes a paramount importance. If PM Modi loses the state, it will give the opposition much needed ammunition to fight the BJP. A loss here in Gujarat can have a sense of far reaching effects too. The opposition can use it against PM Modi for impending 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
This is the first Gujarat assembly elections which will not be fought under the chief minister ship of PM Modi and this aspect will further rein in the prestige issue.
PM Modi has achieved it all in his home state except for one thing. He has still not secured the highest ever tally in the assembly. This has given birth to mission 150 which has been proclaimed by Shah as the target to win elections in Gujarat as he appealed in a speech to his party workers.
With such an immense anti incumbency, what about the chances of the principal opposition Congress to wrest the state from the BJP? Gujarat is one of the states where both the parties are locked in a straight one on one contest.
Even before the Congress can mount a formidable challenge, it has already surmounted itself to its biggest blow. Veteran Leader Shankersinh Vaghela has left the party owing to differences and this has resulted into a bad start for the Congress and its assembly election preparations.
Shankersinh Vaghela is a very senior Congress leader who is still nurturing aspirations for the post of CM. He duly resigned from the party as his demands were not taken seriously by the party high command. He was keen to be the state party chief and lead the Congress in the elections along with having a sway in ticket distribution. As the party failed to promise, Vaghela left Congress and now is willing to form his own party and project a third front. Vaghela is expected to form this hypothetical front with other political parties like JD (U) or the NCP who have a little bit of presence in the state.
There are four reasons as to why Vaghela and his exit may bolster BJP and its chances of securing its Magnum opus ambition of 150 seats at the expense of the Congress party.
Firstly, Vaghela moving out after no response by the high command displays indecisive attitude of the Congress party. It nowhere displays that sheer energy of getting back to power in a state where they are humbled since the last two decades. It seems to have resigned to its fate and this care free attitude may be a symptom of its lack of interest.
Secondly, his exit demonstrates infighting and factional war in the Congress unit of Gujarat. Vaghela is miffed with Bharatbhai Solanki and this is said to be one of the reasons for his sulking. This infighting will not galvanize grass root party workers to put a united front and capitalize on anti incumbency which will be tremendous for the BJP.
Thirdly, the BJP does not have a CM candidate although Rupani is leading the state as the current CM. Since Modi Shah combine has moved out to secure national polity, there is certainly a political vacuum in the BJP. This could have been smartly played by the Congress to put somebody like Vaghela as the CM face considering he seems to be the only mass leader Congress had in Gujarat. The BJP without a face in the state though will bring services of the PM or leaders like CM Yogi to canvass for them and campaign. The central leadership of the Congress already in doldrums can never match this BJP campaigning juggernaut. And in the midst of this process, a mass leader like Vaghela may have helped atleast a bit.
Fourthly, Shankersinh Vaghela is also concerned about his son and his political future. He may have chalked out this plan to eject himself from the Congress and may be secure a BJP plank in the near future. Although he is committed to start a third front, that is going to dent and eat the votes of Congress. Even if he may not realize or fulfill his dreams of becoming the CM, he may spoil the chances of the Congress party in the assembly elections.
These four reasons like punctured four wheels of the Congress is going to dash its little hopes of salvaging a fight. Anti incumbency, no Modi as the CM and emergence of reservation activists like Hardik Patel had presented a slight advantage to the Congress on a platter. Nevertheless as usual they continue to indulge in the game of hit wicket and the stream of losing is expected to continue.
In 2007 elections, the Congress was expected to put a tough fight when anti incumbency was expecting to give a neck to neck competition. But the ‘Merchant of death’ comment made by Sonia Gandhi polarized the elections in favor of Modi. The only thing remaining now is the Congress high command coming to campaign in the state and do the same now. In this process they will hand over elections to the BJP instantaneously even if Modi Shah combine are at the centre.