In less than a fortnight, India will come to know who gets to form the government in Gujarat. As per reports, the Bharatiya Janata Party seems to have an edge; however, it will face a tough fight from its main rival, the Congress. This election is very significant for the BJP as its prestige is at stake. A loss would definitely spell disaster as it would have an impact on the party’s fortunes in the states that would be going to the polls in 2018. A loss will also diminish its standing the 2019 general elections. Though BJP is all geared up and is leaving no stone unturned in trying to maintain its hold on the state, there are a few challenges that might create obstacles. Let us take a look at the five challenges that the BJP might face.
The anti-incumbency factor
The BJP has been in power continuously since 1998. Of these 19 years, Narendra Modi has held the post of Chief Minister for 13 years. The period between before and after Modi becoming the Chief Minister was that of political instability. Narendra Modi provided the much-needed stability. The 2014 general elections witnessed Modi being elevated as the Prime Minister of the country. The following three years have witnessed two chief ministers – Anandiben and Vijay Rupani. Rupani does not have the same kind of aura as that of Modi. So, will this have a bearing on the elections and see an anti-incumbency wave?
Patidars and Dalits
The Patidars and Dalits are sizeable communities and they are not on the side of the BJP. Both these communities are feeling sidelined in the current model. The Patidars are demanding reservations and in this regard, a huge pro-reservation protest was organised under the leadership of the young Hardik Patel in August 2015. The agitation led to a clampdown by the government, loss of lives, damage to property and Harik Patel was jailed. This only led to the young leader aligning himself with the Congress. Patels form around 18 percent of the population which is a large enough electorate to create problems for the BJP.
The Dalit community, too, is upset as they have been victims of violence, oppression, discrimination, untouchability, from socially dominant groups. And not much has changed in the past few years. In 2016, four Dalits were also brutally thrashed by cow vigilantes for skinning a dead cow. The Dalits seem to be a disenchanted lot and this can go against the BJP in the 2017 elections.
Modi not on the scene
The 2017 Gujarat elections are different from the previous ones as this time Modi is not at the helm. Following Modi’s departure from state politics, Gujarat has witnessed turbulent times, especially under the reign of Anandiben. Apart from grappling with the Patel and Dalit agitations, her rule has also been marred by blames of nepotism and corruption. What impact will this have on the elections, remains to be seen.
Gujarat elections will witness a tough contest between the two main parties, the BJP and the Congress, but the impact of the Aam Aadmi Party cannot be ignored. Though AAP is far from forming a government, but its votes will surely split BJP’s votes creating more trouble for the party.
The Goods and Services Tax has hit the trading community hard. The trading community is pro-BJP and has played a significant role in the elevation of the party to the national scene. However, the implementation of the GST has had a negative impact on their revenues. Protests were held by the traders in many cities of Gujarat against the implementation of GST. It remains to be seen how will GST impact the fortunes of the BJP in the state.
Though the BJP still has an edge over other parties in the state, but these are just some of the challenges that the party needs to keep an eye on.