By Santosh Bhartiya
The process of Gujarat election has begun. With the announcement of dates opinion polls too have started pouring in. The media, especially television channels, on their part have taken up those polls for debates, their main theme being who will win – Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi? None of the channels cared to inquire about the issue on which the prospective voters of Gujarat will side with either of them, even the BJP and the Congress themselves are shying away from letting the cat out of their bags. They are doing so because they have to answer difficult questions: BJP has to present its report on its much touted Gujarat model of development, and the Congress to present a clear road map of future plans to the people. This election will become or increasingly transforming into a farce. Deliberate efforts are being made to divert attention towards superfluous debates by the television channels, and perhaps political parties too like this.
By the way, both the BJP and the Congress have fault lines in Gujarat. For the BJP no leader has emerged in the state who can, at the same time, become a crowd puller and shoulder party’s responsibility after Narendra Modi’s becoming prime minister. Therefore, the Prime Minister has to frequently come to Gujarat to cut even the ribbon of a flyover. In many public meetings expected crowed did not turn up, though it altogether a different matter that newspapers and media did black this out. Social media copiously published photographs and comments about those meetings.
On the other hand Congress had an established leader in Shankar Singh Vaghela, who was forced to leave the Congress. The stature of none of the rest of the Congress leaders, including Shaktisinh Gohil, Arjun Modhwadia, Bharat Solanki and Siddharth Patel, has reached to the level that could help the party sail through. Therefore, Rahul Gandhi is being brought in the state frequently and the Congress has strategized its election campaign around the face of Rahul Gandhi. Moreover, the congress successfully take onboard Hardik Patel, Ameesh Thakur and Jignesh, the three young leaders from the state who led three separated movement in the state in last three years and put the BJP in a bit of trouble. But the moot question is will these leaders’ joining rank with Congress transfer the vote of their respective support groups to the Congress? If the Congress has promised the reservation to the Patidars, then what will happen to the backward caste of Ampeesh Thakur? Patidar leaders are hell-bent on getting their demand of reservation accepted. It does not matter to them whether it is provided from the existing quota or from separate arrangements. Speculations are rife whether this conflict will help congress or boomeranged back to its own peril.
The first move of the BJP was successful. It brought two Patidar leaders in its fold. The Congress is raising questions over the development plank of the BJP, but it is more important to raise the questions related to the people. The state and national media deliberately ignore these questions. Therefore, I come to the conclusion that the Gujarat election will throw up some unexpected results.
Congress has not declared its chief ministerial candidate. Probably it is because they may install Hardik Patel, Ameesh Thakur or Jignesh as chief minister at later stage. On the other hand, four established Congress leaders Siddharth Patel, son of Chimanbhai Patel; Bharat Solanki, son of former Chief Minister Madhav Singh Solanki; Arjun Modvadia senior leader and Shakti Singh Gohil have all harbored the ambition of occupying the top post in the state. Perhaps, in order to avoid any damage before election in case of broken ambition, the party did not declared the candidate for the post of Chief Minister.
Be that as it may, there are two points that may spoil the game for both the parties. The first is Shankar Singh Vaghela. Vaghela has tried to bring all the parties who could not forge an alliance either with the BJP or with the Congress and contest elections in the state. He wants to win at least thirty seats, giving serious fight in at least fifty seats, so that he can play the role of a King Maker. Apart from this, the Aam Aadmi Party is planning to contest on 150 seats. Whether it makes an impact in the state, but one thing is clear that this election is going to be knife-edge election, in which 2000 votes may prove vital. If the Aam Aadmi Party is able to get two to three thousand votes in the Gujarat elections, the election will become tighter still.
Despite all these contradictions, people have not yet given any indication as to whom they would prefer. This is the Gujarat, wherein Surat was closed for 28 days, but no news has come in the national media. This is the Gujarat from where the funeral procession of a big leader was carried out. This is the Gujarat from where the anger against the BJP and its big leaders on social media started emanating.
A secret come to the fore that the command of elections in Gujarat was not given to Amit Shah. This may be due the fact that Amit Shah does not have much credibility in Gujarat. The matter of astronomical rise in Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah’s income from Rs 50 thousand to Rs. 80 crore is also on the minds of the voters that have probably pushed Amit Shah on back foot and the prime minister has taken command of the Gujarat election. It would have been better if the Prime Minister had not keep the command of the Gujarat elections in his own hands, and let the party to fight it out. But the prime minister has a peculiar bend of mind. He want to campaign in every election held in the country, and give the impression that party win because of his appeal and lost because of party workers. The same mindset is working in Gujarat as well. He is planning to go to every street and every intersection like he did in Bihar.
This does not suggest that the BJP will have a face serious challenge in Gujarat elections, because the Congress did not adopt the strategy to take all those who are not with the BJP on board by effecting any kind of seat arrangement. The Congress did not do that work. It may be due to the fact that Rahul Gandhi was wanted to create history by coming to power on his own or it may also be possible that no one has come along with the Congress. Truth will be out in next few days. The voting will be held on December 9 and December 14. Narendra Modi will fight Gujarat election exactly as he fought elections in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, or Bihar. So the election of Gujarat will be entertaining. However, efforts will be made to nudge the questions related to people, such unemployment, new industries, farmers’ suicides, etc., which going to make this election relevant or irrelevant.