The Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh state elections, which are scheduled to be held later this year, will decide the political future of many individuals and parties. For over two and half decades, Gujarat has been a bastion for BJP. The grip over the state got strengthened with the entry of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. But the party almost lost the state in 2017 assembly elections to Congress. Although BJP retained the power, the number of seats came down to just two digits. This was the lowest the BJP received in state after Modi and Shah took the reins of the party. The saffron party took this shock seriously and started to make all the necessary changes to avoid such danger. They replaced Bhupendra Patel with Vijay Rupani and Modi himself has been leading the campaign in the state. Patel community is very influential in Gujarat. In the past, they had agitated for a special reservation quota. It was also used by some forces to target BJP. This agitation was one of the reasons why BJP’s majority was reduced in 2017. There is also an argument BJP made Bhupendra Patel the Chief Minister and turned the influential Patels towards them. He is constantly touring the state and is constantly reviewing the development and welfare schemes. The constant presence of Modi and Shah in the state is said to be in working in the party’s favor. We have to see whether the analysis comes true or not?
While this is how BJP is campaigning, Congress, the major opposition is taking a completely opposite route. The party is almost invisible in the campaign due to the lack of presence of party’s prominent faces. Whatever the reasons, the Congress seems to have taken a step back in both states. Leaving the states where elections are scheduled, the uncrowned prince of Congress is making rounds in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
This has created a vacuum in the state elections. Kejriwal’s AAP has entered the scene and started to claim that they would fill the vaccum. AAP, which first won the elections in Delhi and then in Punjab, has set its eyes on Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. It started an aggresive campaign targeting BJP in both states. BJP has also started targeting AAP more than Congress. With this, it seemed that the contest was going to be between AAP and BJP.
But the story took a different turn. The aggressive Kejriwal first got an unexpected shock with the arrest of Satyender Jain. With this, Kejriwal started to slow down a bit. He gradually started focus only on Gujarat, leaving Himachal Pradesh to BJP and Congress. Later, the liquor scam and allegations against Sisodia pushed Kejriwal into defensive. Several ground reports suggests that Gopal italia’s comments against hindu gods and Rajendra Gautam participation in conversion of Hindus into Naya Baudh did not go well with the state’s majority community. This has also slimmed the prospects of AAP’s presence in the state.
One thing to be noted is, no matter what AAP does..the contest in both state is between BJP and Congress. AAP’s lack of organizational strength in both states is a major weakness for the party. Congress may not campaign much. But compared to AAP, Congress is in much better position as few famous leaders are still within the party. But will it be enough to stop BJP in Gujarat from retaining power? As for now, it looks difficult.
And, the story of Himachal Pradesh is more or less the same. Congress is not in a position to give a tough fight to BJP. In the by-elections held last year, the Congress gave an unexpected shock to the BJP by winning all the MP and MLA seats. This led to an argument that BJP will replace Jairam Thakur. But, the party did not do that. There is a reason for this.
But let’s talk about Congress first .. As mentioned, the Congress which won the by-elections could not continue the momentum. With internal strife in the state party and central Congress not caring for the state, the grand old party is in no position to make a comeback in the state.
On the other hand, AAP also campaigned aggressively in the state till one point. In line with the allegation that Kejriwal has links with Khalistan extremists, the hoisting of the Khalistan flag on the wall of the state assembly led to a big uproar. But, the matter got diluted. Kejriwal quietly stopped campaigning in the state, thus signaling the party’s end in Himachal Pradesh.
Coming to Jairam Thakur.. as a person he has a good reputation. But it is Modi’s charishma that has been the driving force for BJP in the state. This is the reason why Modi is campaigning on a large scale in Himachal Pradesh. On one hand, he laid foundation stone for Drug Park, which will reduce the import of drugs into the country. On the other, he started the prestigious Vande Bharat train and launched several development projects, thus projecting the work that is being the done by the double engine government.
The lack of opposition presence in the campaign is also said to be working in favor of the BJP. The party is using development and welfare as the main tools in the campaign and is eyeing to retain the power and put an end to the culture of one time BJP and one time Congress, just like in Uttarakhand.
Based on the analysis and predictions so far, it is being argued that the BJP will return to power in both the states and the Congress will be limited to the opposition. AAP will not be able to make an impact in both the states and has to face humiliation. AAP, which has boasted of replacing Congress, will be limited to Delhi and Punjab for now.
Congress no show in the elections may weaken its position as the primary opposition, which will ultimately help BJP in retaining power.