The election results in the two States of Himachal & Gujarat could set the tone for the elections in 8 States in 2018, including key states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan & Chattisgarh, and provide an insight to the voter sentiment.
Unlike previous elections, this time the Gujarat elections will not be a one horse race and the BJP will have to earn its victory. The Prime Minister has understood the gravity of the situation and launched a campaign blitzkrieg in his home State along with Amit Shah. The State leadership has been virtually relegated to the background as Modi addressed rally after rally in his home state.
If the Himachal election has been called a Virbhadra versus Modi battle, the elections in Gujarat can be called a Rahul vs Modi fight.
Going by the BJP’s recent performances the Gujarat battle may look like a mismatch, but the implementation issues surrounding GST and the high GST rates – just as the people, particularly the trading community were recovering from the after effects of demonetization- has provided the Congress party with much needed ammunition to fight the BJP.
The government, realising its folly, brought down the GST rates before the Gujarat elections to mollify the trading community, but there is no denying the fact that business has taken a hit in the wake of demonetization & GST.
In Himachal, Virbhadra – who is out on bail in a disproportionate assets case – tried to play the victim card to woo voters apart from blaming Modi & Jaitley for making people suffer due to demonetization. The BJP, worried by its election prospects, was forced to declare Dhumal as its CM candidate just a week before the elections.
Since 1985, no government has been able to repeat its term in Himachal and it would be interesting to see if the octogenarian CM who is battling a disproportionate assets case is able to shake off the anti-incumbency factor & reverse that trend.
In Gujarat, however, the BJP has been enjoying an incumbency advantage for far too long as the Congress would like everyone to believe. But can the Congress, propelled as it is by the GST & demo rumblings, make an impact on the Gujarat trading turf is the big question.
Foot in mouth diseased Congress veteran & former diplomat Mani Shankar Aiyer has thrown a spanner in the party’s campaign by his “Neech ” remark against the Prime Minister who took the jibe and turned it into a missile against the Congress in no time.
The Congress will have to reduce the 9% difference in Gujarat’s vote share between the two parties by half to have any chance of winning the Gujarat election. The gains expected by the Congress-Patidar alliance which could have helped Congress in bridging this gap has been erased significantly by Mani’s remarks & must have left Rahul Gandhi – who was still savouring his anointment to the Congress presidency – livid & fuming.
Will the Gujarat voter, irked by demo & more recent GST effect, take out his or her ire on the incumbent government, and more importantly will Congress & Rahul be able to translate that disenchantment into votes or will the Modi effect ride roughshod & blow away all opposition is the big question.
Gujarat’s development model has been applauded & awarded over the last 22 years but inspite of the development Gujarat’s name still figures in the list of States which have the 60 most backward districts in the country.
The results of these two states will set the tone for the forthcoming elections in key states like Madhya Pradesh & Rajasthan in 2018 and provide an inkling into the voters mind as the 2019 Lok Sabha election draws nearer.
Even if the Congress is able to win one state as 2017 passes away in history, it will be a big boost to its sagging fortunes, and it would want that State to be Gujarat as then it would have tamed the two Gujarat lions in their own den, so that their roar could be smothered in the run up to the general elections.
However, the Modi Shah combo will leave no stone unturned to defeat Congress & Rahul comprehensively in Gujarat so that their slogan of Congress-mukt Bharat is alive & kicking.
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