Assembly Elections 2017: Gujarat Gains Either Ways

When development appears non-inclusive to voters, mandate shifts to caste based identity and re-alignment. India is more curious in knowing the outcome of Gujarat assembly election. The recent turnaround of OBC, Dalit and the Patidar towards the main opposition party indicates shifting of loyalties and caste based fragmentation in 2017 elections. The much speculation regarding the disturbances that Pakistan based terrorist groups may plan to disrupt the process gives another unique angle to it. Mr. Modi’s frequency of visits , star campaign planned by the ruling party including inviting UP CM say that initial expectations of BJP sweeping close to 150 seats is under tremendous stress. Vacuum created with Prime Minister being at centre, Mr. Shah busy looking at party interest at national level, and Mrs. Anindita Ben opting out of active politics is felt in the Gujarat political corridor. Current CM Mr. Rupani and his Deputy appear to have erred in some valuable time in empowering younger and committed faces of Gujarat BJP.

State Finances and Leadership Consolidation

Two chief ministers in last three years could not sustain the pro-BJP leanings in Gujarat. An apathy factor born out of 22 odd years of same ruling party is felt in Gujarat. So what has changed for BJP in Gujarat? Closer analysis reveals that this could be the election wherein the Hindu vote consolidation might not take place in favour of the BJP. The Gujarat model has become an oversold accommodative. The development which was primarily driven by the trading and business communities of Gujarat with the support system of BJP-led government is very slow in transforming the basic parameters of human development. By February 25, 2016 the state of Gujarat owes Rs 1,65,742 crores in public debt. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Study of state budgets (2015) is putting “total debts”, to be more than Rs 2 lakh crore. Growth in income tax collections fall short of target. This is despite the fact that average annual Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) growth rate of Gujarat from 2004-05 to 2015-16 was 12.02 per cent. Though human development index is catching up it is still below states like Maharastra, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Kerala. The expenditure in social sectors need more determined implementation. Industrialisation has limitations in terms of alleviating the disparities.

GST, Demonetisation and Trade Losses

Tax reforms like GST will have teething problems. The advantages of such bold initiatives are likely to come after two years. May be during first half 2019 we may see more moderation in prices. Else a step towards increasing the general tax base/ net is definite to displease many traders and producers. In addition informal sector faces stiffer competition as the law is becoming more rigid. Demonetisation affected their business significantly for a quarter. Low private consumption further erodes their valuation. There is no denying of the fact that post Demonetisation and GST the BJP’s traditional vote bank of trading communities is also perplexed whether to continue their support to the party or finding them divided over choices. This GST is affecting the fundamental core of sectors like labour intensive industries. The Hindu reported the diamond-cutting and polishing industry (a million people in Surat) , textiles (80,000 textile traders in 120 textile markets generating a daily turnover of ₹100 crore in Surat), ceramics (around 35000 direct jobs) are finding their competitiveness eroding under GST. The government at Centre is trying its best bring reforms in GST to arrest such slowness in the industry. This is a political price that BJP has to bear for a good work under GST. Given that there will be no roll back of GST in future, traders ire will not be starkly reflected in the forthcoming polls. But a 20-30% swing of small trading classes may be expected depending on the campaign promises of Congress. BJP is also doing its bit by a more realistic avoidance of fines for the delay in compliances.

Congress Closing the Gap

As far as reports of atrocities on Dalits in the state are concerned, this may not sway away a larger part of Dalit votes to other parties. The reports of atrocities are not beyond normal past trend. Showing a more caring attitude to Go-Mata has wider social approval here. Besides in ST pockets BJP has stronger holds. Tribals have been experiencing a better world all these years. GST may have more impact on voting pattern than Dalit atrocities. The fact that GST is not going to be rolled back rather will be less rigid in rates with time to come, 10- 20% of the disgruntled crowd may change their preferences. Though Human Development Index is poor for the state, it is not discriminatory. The poor as a whole has not been able to reap the advantage of the state largesse. But there is less voice of dissent that Muslim community is discriminated in allocation of public utilities. Gujarat is now a different ball game for Congress if we look at local body polls in December, 2015. In local body polls like zila panchayats and taluka panchayats the party won 23 of 31 and 113 of 193 seats. Modi-less Gujarat is more prone to Patel sways. For BJP to feel comfortable it has to raise voting percentage to close around 75% to overcome anticipated steep shortfall (2-4%) of voting share.

Polling Percentage Gender-wise

Total Males Females Postal votes
72.02 73.00 69.52 0.72

 

Voting Percentage in 2007 and 2012 State Assembly Elections

District 2007 2012

 

District 2007 2012
Kachchh 58.48 68.25 Bhavnagar

 

57.77

 

69.89

 

Banaskantha

 

62.57

 

75.57

 

Anand

 

63.69

 

75.42

 

Patan 64.63 71.63 Kheda

 

61.76

 

72.92
Mehsana 64.31 74.61 Panchmahal

 

56.62

 

72.52
Sabarkantha 61.31 76.69 Dahod

 

49.89

 

69.27

 

Gandhinagar

 

63.23

 

75.49

 

Vadodara

 

58.69

 

72.92

 

Ahmedabad

 

58.24

 

69.16

 

Narmda

 

69.65

 

83.27

 

Surendranagar

 

59.83 70.59 Bharuch

 

64.36

 

75.82

 

Rajkot

 

58.02

 

71.58 Surat

 

58.53

 

69.96

 

Jamnagar 55.73 69.03 Tapi

(New District)

 

81.36

 

Porbandar

 

56.96

 

66.90

 

Dang

 

58.87

 

69.79

 

Junagadh

 

62.07

 

70.38

 

Navsari

 

64.65

 

76.54

 

Amreli

 

59.39

 

67.85

 

Valsad

 

61.82

 

74.40

 

 

The gap between two parties in different elections through winning margin in percentage

More than 12 % 8-12% 5-8% 5% or less
B J P 68 14 15 19
Congress 16 14 6 26

More Young Leaders, More New Faces

It is more interesting to see the unity in OBCs and Patidars behind their new young leaders. The leaders have shown alignment to either of the two leading parties and have come out in open. It may be relatively easier for Congress to accommodate their demands for likely seat adjustments and power sharing than BJP. Besides with its shrewd campaign strategy may try to promote them as leaders. In addition they neutralise the losses that Congress faced during Rajya Sabha elections. Amit Shah’s master strategy will definitely have surprises here.

Voting Percentage and Pattern

The table carries the voting percentages in different districts during 2007 and 2012 elections. Voter’s participation has shown appreciable improvements. Male’s participation is 73% and that of female voters is 69.52 %. One may anticipate an increase one to two percentages more votes this year. Given that more new faces and more youths may find nominations this time from two leading parties, Congress may be betting its chances of increasing its vote share by 2 to 3 percentage points. This may end up fetching it 75-80 seats. This number is an outcome of giving weight-age to past election results of seats won where the margins have been more than 12 % and those under 5%, and given urban disturbances in trades. This analysis is just exploratory is not meant to influence the voters or election outcome in any way. This may be warning to BJP from the start to continue to hold on to its fort. Congress may be more alert to thwart any horse trading. The beauty of Gujarat polling is consolidation of votes across two major parties and marginalisation of other parties. So, the new leaders are expected to avoid standing independent in any significant way this time. Here lies another clue for strategy formation for either of the two political giants in the state.

Gujarat Gains

The recent declaration of packages for Gujarat may not make people happy and consolidating. Still BJP has edge, but it is edgy. If it is winning it has to deliver more on social sectors including manufacturing. If Congress is lucky then it has to set a benchmark in delivering. Lok Sabha elections in 2019 may fetch more infrastructure projects to the state. The state will not be neglected in any way. The biggest plus point of this election is definite emergence of new young leaders to take forward interests of the state and her people.

Performance of Major Political Parties 2012

Name of the Party No. of contesting candidates No. of elected candidates Valid votes polled %-ge of valid votes
BSP 163 0 342142 1.25
BJP 182 115 13119579 47.85
INC 176 61 10674767 38.93
NCP 12 0 259957 0.95

 

BJP emerging stronger in ST Pockets

Type of Assembly Constituency General SC ST Total
No. of Assembly Constituency 142 13 27 182