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Will the anti-incumbency factor play a role in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections?

By admin

November 24, 2017

Assembly Election 2017  in Gujarat

 

After two decades of absolute dominance, BJP is finally facing anti-incumbency in the forthcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and will play a significant role in the poll outcome.

It is still not clear how the voters will vote on polling day, but trends seem to point to a general dissatisfaction with the state leadership while continuing support for Narendra Modi-led BJP at the centre.

Rahul Gandhi realizes this is his best chance of demonstrating his leadership as he prepares to take over reins as Congress party President, and so, he has stepped up his campaign to ride the anti-BJP sentiment. He has several other factors working in his favour – GST, demonetization, Patidar movement, anti-Dalit sentiment, general lack of new jobs and poor governance at the local level. All the issues put together, highlight the fact that after two decades of political dominance in the state, anti-incumbency is finally here to haunt the BJP.

However, what seems to reduce the impact of anti-incumbency is the lack of credible leadership from the Congress in providing a suitable alternative to the state leadership of the BJP. The current CM Vijay Rupani is not viewed as a great administrator, but there is no one from the Congress to challenge him. Besides, Narendra Modi continues to exert strong influence across the state, drawing support from most sections. The party is banking on this support to see them through this elections.

Its only in the last three months that Rahul Gandhi seems to have gotten back some of his political mojos, with Congress projecting this election as a stand-off between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi, with Rahul playing the proverbial David taking on Modi, the omnipresent Goliath. That’s a mistake by the Congress. In failing to project a credible alternate to Vijay Rupani, they have lost an opportunity to capitalise on the anti-incumbency opportunity.

If Ahmed Patel was a serious contender, he certainly hasn’t been projected so, which leaves open the question, how is the Congress going to capitalize on the genuinely built-up anti-incumbency. It is this lack of clear electoral strategy that is negating much of the negative sentiment that has built up against the BJP leadership in the state.

BJP has faced similar anti-incumbency in the post-Bhuj earthquake situation and briefly paid the price, but it wasn’t enough to unseat the party. So will Rahul Gandhi be able to seize the anti-BJP sentiment this time? For those who believe he will have little to justify how.

It is true that Congress has received a boost with Hardik Patel throwing his weight behind the party, but in the last one year, Hardik’s influence within the Patidar community has waned to some extent, from the popularity peak seen during the early days of his agitation.

The traders are an unhappy lot. BJP has traditionally been stronger in urban areas, but this time around, the trader community, especially in places like Surat and Rajkot which has a large concentration of diamond and textile workers, have had to face the brunt of the impact of demonetization and GST.

They hold a grouse against the central policies. This sentiment, along with extended support from the Patidar and other minority groups, may contribute to a better performance by the Congress but may not be enough to remove BJP from winning yet another term.

Post the sterling performance in U.P elections; a confident Amit Shah announced that the party would be aiming for 150 plus seats in these elections. The fact that people of U.P did not seem to hold grudges against demonetization and GST does not necessarily mean the people of Gujarat will vote on similar lines. So has Amit Shah miscalculated the sentiment?

If the BJP retains Gujarat with a strong performance, it will be a validation of Narendra Modi’s popularity in the state rather than an endorsement of the party’s local leadership. But a win with lesser seats than in 2012, will be a signal to the party not to take the 2019 general elections for granted. One way or the other, the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections result will certainly impact future political equations among opposition parties.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed are of those of the author and do not represent the views of Elections.in.

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