Why political pundits have put few Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat in 2019 elections in ‘fight’ category

By Japan K Pathak

Gandhinagar: So why, several Lok Sabha seats are considered fight seats in Gujarat when BJP had won all 26 seats in 2014 Lok Sabha general elections? Well that is because of the figures of assembly poll results.

In northern most Lok Sabha seat Banakantha, Congress was up by 25,699 votes in assembly elections of 2017. In another North Gujarat seat Patan, Congress was up by 38,855 votes in assembly polls 2017. Similarly in Mahesana Congress was up by 16,948 votes, in Sabarkantha by 14,013 votes, in Surendranagar by 49,126 votes, in Junagadh by 1,68,756 votes, in Amreli by 51,073 votes and in Anand by 58,854 votes.

Political pundits believe that year 2014 Lok Sabha general election in Gujarat was once in a lifetime election because son of soil and then state Chief Minister Narendra Modi was contesting as Prime Ministerial candidate. The excitement to elect him as PM was not just limited to Gujarat. Even neighboring Rajasthan gave all Lok Sabha seats to BJP in 2014. Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra also voted for BJP overwhelmingly. Never in the past any party had won all Lok Sabha seats in Gujarat. Even when Congress was on its peak in Gujarat, it couldn’t win all seats.

Political pundits also point out that in year 2015, the State witnessed violent Patidar quota agitation which impacted rural panchayat elections across the State in same year. Rural-urban divide also emerged in the results of year 2015 local elections and year 2017 assembly elections, particularly in Saurashtra region. Therefore the best data to take reference is year 2017 assembly polls, political pundits believe.

However there are some loopholes in making judgement of Lok Sabha election based on Vidhansabha election data.

– Voters turnout in both elections is hugely different. Lok Sabha polls witnesses lesser turnout compared to assembly polls.

– Time is different.

– Agenda is different. National issues play larger role.

– Candidates are different.

Then, it has been seen in the past that when assembly by-polls take place along with the Lok Sabha general elections, the result of Lok Sabha candidate and Vidhan Sabha candidate in same segment turn out to be different. Shaktisinh Gohil was contesting Abdasa assembly seat by-poll in 2014 which comes under Lok Sabha seat of Kutch. Lok Sabha general election for Kutch seat and assembly by-poll for Abdasa assembly seat both were on same day, same time. The voters were same, booths were same. But when results came out, Shaktisinh had got more votes in Abdasa assembly seat by-poll while in same assembly seat area, BJP candidate Vinod Chavda had got more votes in Lok Sabha election. Same happened in Visavdar assembly seat by-poll.

So while, based on the assembly results of 2017, the seats listed above are considered close-fight ones, the reference point of 2017 is not full-proof.

Nevertheless, BJP has taken 2017 as reference point and made all that was possible to overcome the gaps. Alpesh Thakor and his two MLAs not working for Congress, Kunvarji Bavaliya joining BJP are some of the highlights.

Prime Minister’s rally post the announcement of election were all organised in ‘fight’ seats, starting with Junagadh, then Bardoli, Sabarkantha, Surendranagar, Anand, Amreli and last one at Patan. Amit Shah addressed public meetings in Banaskantha, Junagadh, Chhota Udepur and Valsad seats apart from his own constituency Gandhinagar. Before and after every public meeting, there were meetings with local organisation to assess the ground situation and fix the gaps. Chief Minister Rupani, State party chief Vaghani, State election incharge Om Mathur, State organisational general secretary Bhikhu Dalsaniya would continuously move from one seat to other. Vaghani and Rupani would address public meetings, but also hold organisational meetings in sideline. Their ears would be on the ground. Parshottam Rupala, a top campaigner whose speeches go viral and Mansukh Mandaviya would also move from place to place.

Scanty rain and scarcity of water had made situation for ruling party bit difficult. Banakantha had just 30% of rain last monsoon, Patan 38%. The government was aware about connection of poor rain to election verdict. Farmers of scarcity-hit talukas were given Rs. 12,000 in their bank accounts by the State government. Drinking water has not been an issue in Gujarat any more thanks to Narmada network but Narmada irrigation water could not be supplied in summers in last two years. It has to be seen, how much it impacts the election and how much success BJP achieves in its efforts to neutralize the effect.

The election has three layers as always –

Top layer: Overall message from the top (who should be the Prime Minister? Who should run the country for next five years?) in this election is in favour of BJP.

Middle layer: Candidates contesting on fight-seats are on equal footing. Elsewhere BJP enjoys upper hand.

Bottom layer: Ground techniques/arithmetic and polling-day mobilisation will mostly decide victory/lose in close-fight seats.

At this stage, maximum mobilisation of favourable voters in favourable areas in favour of party is a key remedy for BJP to fill the gaps that were witnessed in 2017. For win in Bardoli, Kamrej has to vote, for win in Chhota Udepur, Padra has to vote and likewise. The election is Modi-led but Sangathan oriented.

DeshGujarat

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