The mathematics of elections: How the BJP is carefully decimating its rivals’ strategies

Clear wave BJP supporters wave cutouts at a rally in Dhandhuka village on Wednesday. With its weak State apparatus, the Congress may be unable the fathom the voter mood in Gujarat   -  PTI

Gandhinagar, December 6

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah are known for thinking out of the box, continuously improvising their strategy — the reason why their party has registered a series of electoral successes since 2014. Gujarat, their home turf, has seen such carefully planned campaigning as well.

The two leaders are also known not to succumb to pressures from dominant groups. Their ‘selection’ of chief ministers in Haryana, Jharkhand, Gujarat and UP in the recent past — Manoharlal Khattar, Raghubar Das, Vijay Rupani and Yogi Adiyanath, respectively — is a case in point. The duo opted for leaders from ‘minority’ Hindu caste groups, rather than dominant ones, unlike in the past. If the BJP returns to power in Gujarat, this pattern is likely to follow.

Also read: PM’s presence is imperative for BJP’s campaign plan

Patidar equations

The BJP’s poll strategy in Gujarat may have emerged in 2015 itself, when Anandiben Patel could not handle the Patidars agitation launched by her own powerful community members. The BJP tried to accommodate and recalibrate but refused to succumb to the Patidar lobby’s pressures beyond a point. This gradually pushed the Hardik Patel group towards the Congress, a tie-up that now looks like an unhappy marriage, given that many Patidars suspect the grand old party’s ability, strength or even desire, despite its unclear “formula”, to provide reservation for the community. The Congress had failed to provide reservation to the Jats (Haryana) and the Rajputs (Rajasthan) during its regimes, it is being recalled.

The Patidar vote (15 per cent) may now be splitting vertically. While many in the younger generation might still support Hardik Patel’s choice, the older ones are seen inching back to the BJP. On Wednesday, 10 major Patidar bodies came together to say Hardik’s rallies seem to be crowded more by non-Patidars; many openly subscribed to the BJP’s charge that he was a Congress agent.

The unity of the Kadwas, in North Gujarat, the epicentre of the Patidar agitation, may have succeeded in engineering a counter-consolidation of OBC votes in favour of the BJP.

In his recent election rallies, Modi has been reminding the people about life before the BJP regime in 1995, and how the party has provided safety, peace and curfew-free governance to all.

Last month, the BJP was seen giving a long rope to the Congress. Modi’s election campaign was ‘postponed’ time and again, during which period Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Kapil Sibal, and regional leaders Alpesh Thakore, Jignesh Mevani and Hardik played out their roles and hit the headlines, putting all their cards on the table.

In this chaos, the Congress hurriedly fielded around 50 candidates from ‘wrong’ constituencies — including 13 OBCs from Patidar-dominated seats. Now, Patidar candidates of the BJP and the Congress face each other in 33 constituencies and it is anybody’s guess who will win.

Addressing Muslims

The Congress does think the Muslims continue to be its ‘vote bank’, come what may. However, a ‘soft-Hindu’ Rahul Gandhi visited only Hindu temples, some 20 of them, although his party fielded six Muslim candidates and the BJP, none. But the BJP’s stand on triple talaq may have won it many a potential Muslim woman vote. And, in Ahmedabad, many Muslim men expressed satisfaction with the cheaper health facilities, law and order etc, provided by the BJP government. The BJP has also roped in Muslim clergy from UP to canvass support in the community in Gujarat.

In this re-engineered social dynamics, the BJP may have laid a number of booby traps and minefields of caste equations for the Congress and reshuffled permutations and combinations. With its weak State apparatus, the Congress may be unable the fathom the social changes in a rapidly urbanising State during its 22-year-long absence from power. It’s unsurprising that Gujarat Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki is not contesting.

Related News: VMR opinion poll gives a definite edge to the BJP

Published on December 06, 2017

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