Lok Sabha polls: Can Narendra Modi ensure clean sweep in Gujarat?

Though famous for its mouth-watering recipes of dhoklas, fafdas and khandvi, the state of Gujarat is all fragrant with the flavours of General Elections 2014 this season.

Supriya Jha

Though famous for its mouth-watering recipes of dhoklas, fafdas and khandvi, the state of Gujarat is all fragrant with the flavours of General Elections 2014 this season.

Gujarat, like all other states, is set for the Lok Sabha polls that will begin April 7. The state will go to the elections on April 30 and the by-elections of state assembly will also be held on same day.

The ritual of elections is nothing new for Gujarat, but this time the state has special reasons to get excited as it is all set to send its CM and BJP`s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to Delhi`s 7 Race Course road, if opinion polls and surveys are to be believed.

As the entire nation has already voted, the results are safely trapped within the EVMs, however exit polls are here now and they are more or less hinting at the same message that the pre-poll surveys declared – that of the BJP emerging as the ultimate winner in Modi`s state.

However, between the pre-poll surveys and post-poll surveys, the BJP seems to have lost the vote share percentage, while the Congress has gained.

As per the post-poll survey by CNN-IBN-CSDS-Lokniti for Gujarat, the BJP has apparently lost 2 per cent votes and the Congress seems to have gained 4 per cent votes.

The survey gives 21-25 seats to the BJP, while 1-5 seats to the Congress in Gujarat.

ABP/AC Nielson survey gives 24 seats to BJP and 2 seats to Congress in Modi`s native state.

Modi, who has ruled the state for over a decade now, has been touted as the most preferred PM candidate, thanks to the widely highlighted “Gujarat model of development”.

Having come a long way from the stigma of 2002 , Modi brilliantly cashed in on the enterprising nature of the hard-working Gujjus and made Gujarat the most urbanised state of India, with high growth rate figures. It is also worth mentioning here that Gujarat has always been a progressive state.

It was the hat-trick win of Modi in Gujarat that made him buoyant enough to set his eyes on loftier goals outside the state.

And the result was a brand new Modi, who left behind his grey past and marched `forward` with such a determination that he now seems unstoppable as he steers his chariot towards Delhi.

It is Gujarat which worked as a springboard for Modi, and catapulted him on the national stage after which followed a pan-India Modi wave, which is said to be casting its ripples throughout the nation.
However, the theory of Modi wave has been trashed by the rivals, mainly the Congress and the debutante Aam Aadmi Party.

While AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal rubbished Modi`s claims as “bakwas”, the one woven by the media; Rahul claimed that the credit was deserved by the hardworking enterprising spirit of the people there and not Modi.

The theory of Gujarat`s development model and `Modi wave` may have found detractors galore. But what comes as a cherry on the cake for Modi, is a report by the Economic Freedom of the States of India (EFSI), released just ahead of elections, which paints Gujarat in bright strokes.

The EFSI report 2013 says "Gujarat is not only the freest state, but it has also registered the fastest rate of improvement (from 0.46 to 0.65). The second fastest improver is Andhra Pradesh(from 0.40 to 0.50)".

When Modi chose UP`s Varanasi as his Lok Sabha seat, it was said that Gujaratis would be disappointed, but how could the CM afford to do so. And hence came the announcement that Modi will also contest the election from Vadodara.

Interestingly, Modi`s decision to not abandon Gujarat came only after AAP chief Kejriwal declared to contest against Modi from Varanasi. Many doubt that Vadodara was chosen to ensure Modi`s victory at least in his native state, if somehow Kejriwal`s broom worked its
magic against the Gujarat CM in Kashi.

Another reason behind Modi contesting from Central Gujarat has definitely something to do with the Congress party`s better performance in the region.

In the last Lok Sabha Elections 2009, Congress and the BJP were neck-and-neck in Central Gujarat with each winning three seats from the region.

Also in Assembly Elections 2012, Congress hit a comparatively robust mark of 17 seats in Central Gujarat, even though the BJP won 21.

The seats in the neighbourhood of Vadodara in Central Gujarat have traditionally been under the influence of Congress with Union Ministers Dinsha Patel and Bharat Solanki winning Kheda and Anand constituencies respectively. Modi would surely want to break the tradition .

So, the Gujarat CM`s intent to field himself from Vadodara seems to have two-pronged motive, one is to cast a domino effect of Modi wave on the constituencies surrounding Vadodara and another is to ensure his win from at least on seat, in case the city of Kashi fails to crown him with victory.

Vadodara has been the BJP`s bastion since 1991, except in 1996 when Congress had won the seat. And it is almost a cinch that Modi will flash a V sign in Vadodara, thanks to its mostly saffron-hued political history.

Also, Congress` confusion regarding who should contest against Narendra Modi from Vadodara became evident when it later settled for Madhusudan Mistry, a local well-known leader of tribal communities in Gujarat.

Earlier, Narendra Rawat who was elected in primaries, was Congress` candidate from Vadodara, but he withdrew his name, making way for a stronger contender to be put up against Modi.

Something similar might be in the party`s mind when the BJP veteran LK Advani was compelled to contest from Gandhinagar – from where Advani has won five times.

Like Vadodara, Gandhinagar in north Gujarat has been a BJP stronghold for long (since 1989) and hence fielding Advani from here will seek to reinforce the party`s influence in the region. As in the last Lok Sabha elections 2009, Congress had managed to grab two seats from North Gujarat.

In Gujarat, even though the BJP has been faring better than the Congress, for almost two decades now, Modi has not been able to equal the party`s record of 20 seats in 1999, when the Congress was reduced to a miserable number of six seats.

In 2004, the BJP`s tally dropped from 20 to 14, while in the next LS polls of 2009, it hardly improved its mark by winning 15 seats out of 26.

This time the BJP has its eyes set on all 26 seats, but the party must be mindful of its weak areas in the state which include central Gujarat and the pockets dominate by the tribals and the Muslims.

Also, the cult politics of Modi runs the risk of overplaying the “Modi wave” effect as the BJP did with the “India Shining” campaign in 2004 and bit the dust.

Modi`s Gujarat has already been in news for some wrong reasons like its dismal state in terms of female sex ratio (918 to a 1000 females in 2011) and literacy. Gujarat, which boasts of being the most urbanised state of India, must not ignore its rural populace, who might not be that pleased with Modi`s “Gujarat model of development”.

Despite consistent high growth rate in the state and lofty claims of infrastructure development, Gujarat fares terribly when social human indices like health and child mortality are concerned.

But Gujarat seems to have lesser options other than Modi, as there is no one in Congress to match up to Brand Modi. And the “Third Front” has never worked in Gujarat. The latest experiment by Keshubhai Patel – Gujarat Parivartan Party – is seeking to be merged in the BJP.

Congress on the other hand, hit by defections and Modi wave, is counting on the victory of its student wing NSUI in recent Gujarat University elections ahead of Lok Sabha polls..

Claiming that Gujarat`s youngsters are changing their course towards Congress, the party seeks to cash in upon NSUI win that left the BJP`s ABVP defeated with a mere 9 out of 24 seats.
Congress also fares well in Muslim-dominated pockets and tribal areas, but it recently saw the exit of more than half a dozen leaders.

So, the Congress has a long long way to go before it dreams of even matching BJP`s tally, let alone winning Gujarat.

The BJP has reasons to believe that 26 seats will fall in its kitty this time. It is not asking for the moon. And even if it is the moon they are aiming for, they would fall among the stars.

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