PM Modi’s rant on his home turf after he runs out of alibis

Why do people rant? Is it because they have nothing to say or is it when they run out of ideas? Probably both

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Rahul Pandey

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rant in Gujarat is an indicative of the desperation that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party feels in Gujarat. A loss in Gujarat would destroy BJP’s chances of winning the 2019 elections and they have plenty to be worried about.

The myth around Modi has been built on the success of the Gujarat model and while the hype helped him win the 2014 Lok Sabha election, it may not be enough to enable him to win him the current round of Vidhan Sabha elections. Mr Modi and his team have played all their cards, including Gujarati Pride, and they have very few new tricks up their sleeve as GST and demonetisation could be the critical issues in Gujarat elections 2017.

BJP’s dominance of Gujarat is built on their strong organisational and support base in urban Gujarat, mainly the key cities of Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Vadodara and Surat. These districts have a total of 61 Vidhan Sabha seats and the BJP won 48 of them last time as opposed to just 12 seats by the Congress. BJP enjoyed a massive 19% lead in these four districts in 2012 and the trend continued in 2014 when the BJP made a clean sweep of the state.

Compared to this, the rest of the state have a total of 121 seats and the BJP and Congress were locked in a tight contest with the BJP winning 67 seats against 49 won by the Congress. The gap in the vote share of the two parties in 2012 was just under 4% and the gap has narrowed since then, judging by the Congress’ good performance in the panchayat elections.

It can be said with some certainty that BJP is going to find the going all the more difficult in the rural pockets of the state as Vijay Rupani and Anandiben Patel have not been able to make enough impact as Chief Minister.

What has got the BJP really worried is the political mood in the urban parts of the state, even more so in Ahmedabad and Surat where GST and demonetisation have dealt a severe blow to their middle-class support base. A large number of entrepreneurs in Gujarat has already taken to the streets and there is a lot that the BJP has to be worried about.

The Patels, who make around 15% of the population, constitute the core base of the BJP in the state as about 70% of the Patels voted for the BJP in the 2012 polls. While Keshubhai Patel’s Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) threatened to play the spoiler in 2012, they could only manage 3.63% of the votes, winning two seats and forfeiting deposits in 159 of the 167 seats contested.

The Patidar agitation, however, is a far serious threat to BJP than Keshubhai Patel ever was. It started at a time when elections were not even on the horizon and the issues raised resonated with the masses. The heavy clampdown on Hardik Patel and the Patidar movement has only ended up creating a situation where a significantly large number of Patel voters no longer see the BJP as their natural party.

While all this are along expected lines and BJP would have factored it in their poll arithmetic, the BJP has all the more reasons to be worried about its inability to set the narrative in the 2017 polls. Having seen the last three elections closely in the state, this is the first time that the BJP has been attacked on their development narrative. The BJP had traditionally polarised the society on communal lines and given it a chocolate layering of development. This allowed the BJP to retain its urban and rural support base while not appearing overtly communal.

This is also the first election that the BJP would be contesting with Narendra Modi at the helm in the last 15 years and though the BJP would be hoping that they are still able to galvanise support in his name, it may be more difficult than it may appear at first glance. The Prime Minister’s rant against the Congress is also indicative of the fact that the BJP camp is not really concerned about the fact that the state leadership is part of the problem and not a part of the solution.

The hype about the Gujarat model was built on claims of development and the truth is that nothing much has happened in the state in the last five years. Narendra Modi got into the Lok Sabha campaign mode the day he won his third term in office in 2012 and the new leadership has not been able to get in any fresh ideas into the state, making the BJP vulnerable on their home turf.

The Prime Minister’s tirade against the Congress was essentially drawn from his speeches from the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign. People have heard it all and seen the BJP and the Prime Minister fall way short on delivery. He needs new tricks but new ideas seldom come when you are under pressure.

The Prime Minister and Amit Shah know that a victory in Gujarat is critical to them. A defeat in Gujarat 2017 would not only mean curtains for their 2019 ambitions but would also open the doors for a possible rebellion within their own party. A win here would not matter much but a loss would destroy the BJP politically.

Narendra Modi decided to fall back on his old , tested weapons to defend his home turf but that may not be enough. He has been the aggressor and is good at the attacking game. Defending is alien to him and he could well be making a big, if not fatal, mistake by sticking to his belief that offence is the best defence.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines