Anti-incumbency, fading Modi charisma mean BJP can’t count on winning Gujarat, HP

The Congress seems set to make significant electoral gains at the BJP’s cost in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, where Assembly elections are due to be held in the near future

Anti-incumbency, fading Modi charisma mean BJP can’t count on winning Gujarat, HP

Gyan Pathak

Can the ruling BJP party in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, due to go for Assembly polls, no longer count on PM Narendra Modi’s charisma to deliver electorally favourable outcomes?

The Gujarat govt recently hiked the compensation to be given to the kin of martyrs by a hundred times, from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1 crore, to some degree exhibiting signs of anxiety in the party during the run up to the polls.

The BJP’s stake in Himachal Pradesh is also very high due to a palpable feeling of anti-incumbency among the people.

The outcome of the elections in both states are going to be watched keenly, as they would have an impact on the rank and file of all political parties ahead of the general election due in 2024.

Election to the Vidhan Sabha of Gujarat is due before February 18, 2023, when its present term is going to expire, while that of Himachal Pradesh ends on January 8, 2023.

Since 2003, four Vidhan Sabha elections have been held in Himachal Pradesh, with the Congress and the BJP being voted to power alternately. Given this trend, the morale of the Congress leadership and workers there is very high, and they hope to wrest power from the BJP this time which is said to be facing anti-incumbency in the Himalayan state.

Gujarat politics has been dominated by the BJP since 1995, barring about 18 months of rule by Rashtriya Janata Party during 1997-98 following a split in the BJP. Infighting in the BJP was suppressed thereafter, but now the party has many disgruntled elements within. It is a matter of serious concern for the party, also facing anti-incumbency in spite of its voters taking pride in the state being home to PM Modi.

Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha has 68 seats, out of which 48 seats are general, while 17 are reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) and three for Scheduled Tribe (ST). The BJP won 44 seats in the 2017 Vidhan Sabha election while the Congress won 21. Two seats were bagged by independent candidates, while CPI(M) got one.

The BJP was able to get 48.79 per cent of votes, ahead of the Congress which bagged 41.68 per cent, only about 7 per cent less than the BJP. This makes the Congress confident of wresting power in the state.

Gujarat Vidha Sabha has 182 seats, out of which 142 are general, 13 are reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC), and 17 for Scheduled Tribe (ST). In the Vidhan Sabha election of 2017, the BJP won 99 seats, followed by Congress with 77 seats. The NCP had won only one seat while Bharatiya Tribal Party had 2 and Independents 3. The BJP bagged 49.05 per cent votes while the Congress got 41.44 per cent.

It is evident, then, that in in terms of vote base, the BJP and the Congress are neck-in-neck in both the states, even as the former faces anti-incumbency due to a range of issues including inflation, joblessness and the BJP leaders’ arrogance and highhandedness not only towards the common people but also towards its own rank and file.

The new entrant in the political arena of both the states is Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal. Having won in Punjab during the last round of Assembly polls, the party is hoping to make inroads into the support base of both the BJP and the Congress. However, the party’s real strength in states outside Delhi, and now Punjab, remains untested and its performance can’t be predicted.

What is certain is that there is grave and growing concern in many sections of society at the communalisation of Indian politics, persecution of Opposition leaders and a clampdown on personal liberty under the Modi-Shah duo’s leadership. This may well manifest itself into a losing streak for the BJP in the polls scheduled to be held in the coming days across the country, starting with Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

(IPA Service)

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