Gujarat Assembly segment-wise analysis
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat ahead of state assembly polls in 2017
By Rajiv Shah
Even as the Congress plans its first working committee meet in Gujarat on February 28 after an almost 58 year gap, there is reason to wonder what is in store for India’s grand old party in a state which has been long been a BJP bastion – in fact ever since mid-1990s. Ahead of the then assembly polls in late 2012, talking with me, a senior Gujarat Congress leader, currently Rajya Sabha MP, frankly said he saw no reason why Congress would win.
According to this leader, one only needs to divide the voting pattern in Gujarat into three parts: While the urban areas, forming about one-third of the seats, would almost all go to the BJP, as for the rest of the two-thirds seats (rural and semi-urban), one should divide them equally, 50:50. Half would go to the Congress, while the other hald would to go the BJP.
While I reported this in a Times of India blog without naming this Congress leader, then Sonia Gandhi political adviser Ahmed Patel, I was told later, came to know of this and “castigated” the leader for the observation, which said nothing but the truth. Indeed, the Congress won only nearly one third of the 182 assembly seats in the December 2012 polls, as predicted by this leader.
Be that as it may, seven years later, as the Congress faces another electoral battle as part of the Lok Sabha polls, have things experienced any change for the BJP?
Interestingly, one-and-a-half years ago, ahead of the Gujarat state assembly polls of December 2017, this Congress leader, who was once part of Gujarat’s civil society and worked extensively for tribal rights before joining politics (Shankarsinh Vaghela’s defunct Rashtriya Janata Dal, a splinter group of the BJP) in mid-1990s, repeated the same view he had taken in 2012 while talking to a veteran activist.
As he had predicted, one third of the urban area seats indeed went to the BJP, though as for the rest of the seats, things appeared to slightly tilt towards the Congress. The result was, of the 182 assembly, the BJP was forced to remain satisfied with 100 seats, its worst performance since 1995, while the rest, 82, went to the Congress+ (80), and independents. So, had this Congress leader’s analysis gone awry?
To answer this question, one has to see, how real was this tilt, if at all? If translated into the Lok Sabha’s 26 seats in Gujarat, how many seats would the Congress be able to win in the polls to be held in April-May this year? An Assembly segment-wise analysis of all the Lok Sabha seats suggests, significantly, that that the Congress leader’s theory of the Congress winning around one third of the seats remains intact.
Assembly segment-wise analysis of Lok Sabha seats:
Votes polled by BJP and Congress in 2017
Indeed, the voting pattern in the assembly elections for the 26 Lok Sabha seats suggests that the Congress would win just nine seats in Gujarat, while the rest of the 17 would go to the BJP. No doubt, nine is better than zero, which was the Congress tally in the last Lok Sabha polls from Gujarat in 2014. Yet, it is possible to argue: 2014 was an exception, when the Modi wave swept the country.
Indeed, Assembly segment-wise analysis of the 26 Lok Sabha seats suggests (click HERE for table) that the BJP would be a winner in all major “urban” seats of Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot and Bhavnagar; as for the rest, things would be 50:50.
The victory margin in the urban areas would be huge – in the two Ahmedabad Lok Sabha seats it is around 2 lakh, in Gandhinagar, around 2.7 lakh, in Surat and Vadodara it is 3 lakh plus, in Rajkot it is 85,000.
Indeed, what clearly comes out is, the Congress failed to make any inroads in the urban areas, where, to quote a keen Congress sympathizer, “even today party doesn’t exist despite wide-scale desperation due to unemployment among the able-bodied youth, on one hand, and the continued impact adverse impact of demonetization and goods and services tax (GST) among the small business.” According to this person, “The Congress lacks the killer instinct to cash in on this discontentment.”
Notably, it is suggested, in the 2017 assembly elections, even in the rural areas, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s coalition politics worked. It helped attract three major non-Congress leaders representing Patel, Thakore and Dalit communities towards Congress – despite resistance from the local Gujarat Congress leaders.
While one of them, Alpesh Thakore, joined the Congress, Hardik Patel’s influence got rich dividends to the Congress in Saurashtra, and Jignesh Mevani’s influence on Dalit-Muslim votebank helped the party considerably. The coalition politics, however, worked in the tribal areas, too, where Chhutobhai Vasava’s Bharatiya Tribal Party, aligned with the Congress.
Whether this type of “coalition” would work for the Lok Sabha, especially when Alpesh Thakore, representing an important OBC community, is dally-dallying, going so far as meet Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, is still not clear.
Meanwhile, if the assembly polls are any indication, the BJP has made significant inroads in South Gujarat, which was long considered a Congress bastion. The assembly segment-wise analysis also suggests that the Congress doesn’t win the two Scheduled Caste and four Scheduled Tribe reserved seats also.
A recent interaction with around two dozen grassroots social workers from across the state confirmed that, while there is considerable dissatisfaction, for instance, in coastal and tribal areas, and the anti-incumbency factor is pretty strong almost everywhere, much of the support the Congress would get would depend on the type of candidates the party puts up. Lacking funds, the party focuses more on those who can fund their own polls than on socially-committed candidates!
The view is pretty strong among Muslim social workers that the Congress “doesn’t care” for the community and “doesn’t give space” to Muslims. The “explanation” that the Congress is seeking to woo the majority community (Rahul Gandhi’s temple visits) only to placate the perception that it is seen as a Muslim party, isn’t either going down well among a large section of Muslims. Many wonder, given this situation, why not press the NOTA button?
The assembly segment-wise analysis suggests that the Congress would win nine out of 26 seats, but, clearly, as keen observers note, one has to take into account Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong ability to cash in on the “nationalistic wave” following the terrorist attack on CPRF convoy, killing more than 40 jawans off Srinagar, and the followed by the Air Force surgical strike across the Line of Control.
The impact of such incidents is said to be particularly huge in Gujarat. How would the Congress leadership take on this new wave, especially when its young state leaders aren’t equipped with even the basics of secular and democratic Gandhi-Nehru ideology, bewilders its sympathizers.