Spring in step, BJP may call early polls in Gujarat

Virendra Pandit Gandhinagar | Updated on January 15, 2018 Published on March 15, 2017

Emphatic win in UP has enthused party; eyes Assembly elections in April-May

The BJP’s performance in the recent Assembly elections, especially the landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh, has infused new energy into the party in poll-bound Gujarat. .

Suddenly, Gujarat’s political climate has undergone a sea change: from that of doubt to certainty. The question that is now being asked in political circles here is not whether the ruling party would return to power this year, but whether the BJP would outperform the Congress’ 1985 record of 149 seats it won under then Chief Minister Madhav Sinh Solanki.

Gujarat has a 182-member Assembly, to which elections are to be held by December this year.

On a visit to Gujarat last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself set a target of winning at least 150 seats.

But given that voters’ memories are short, and lest the great momentum and pro-BJP sentiment generated by the stupendous win in UP wane, chances are that the BJP may call early elections in Gujarat, its most saffron and reliable fortress since 1995.

BJP sources said here on Tuesday that the Assembly polls in Gujarat are likely to be held along with elections to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), as early as April-May.

Shaky Opposition

With the Aam Admi Party (AAP) handed a drubbing in Punjab and Goa, a combative BJP is expected to give the Arvind Kejriwal-led party a run for its money and votes in the MCD polls. The Congress, which lost power in Uttarakhand and Manipur, failed to capitalise on its decent showing in Goa, and won but all of Punjab, is yet to get its act together in Gujarat. Both these anti-BJP outfits — one, the youngest, and the other the oldest of them all — are expecting a miracle in the Assembly polls here.

Kejriwal, who visited Gujarat last year to a rousing reception at some places and raised, among others, the Dalit issues, has brought back Sukhdev Patel into the party leadership recently. The Delhi Chief Minister is slated to tour the State in March-end. But nobody in the party is sure of his visit now, with the MCD polls looming large on his own turf in an intensely pro-BJP climate.

Presidential nominee

A possible victory in Delhi and a return to power in Gujarat would go a long way in making the BJP’s rivals fall in line when the NDA announces a successor to President Pranab Mukherjee before Parliament meets again for the Monsoon Session. The President has been in office since July 2012.

Ever since Narendra Modi left Gandhinagar in May 2014 to take over as the PM, the ruling party in his home State has been struggling to contain political unrest, fissiparous activities, agitations and anti-incumbency. The BJP even had to change the horse mid-stream when it replaced Anandiben Patel, a protégé of the PM, with Vijay Rupani, whose mentor is BJP chief Amit Shah. Even Modi has, so far, visited Gujarat as many as 10 times — seven times since September 2016 — just to make warring leaders fall in line.

But, both Modi and Shah know there is no time to rest as far as Gujarat is concerned.

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Published on March 15, 2017
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