View: Congress successful in denting BJP vote bank but lost its too

With BJP playing its trump card by launching Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the star campaigner in the last leg of campaigning ahead of the first phase of assembly elections in Gujarat, the party is more than confident to nail the victory.

It is not just the party that is sure of winning the elections and continuing its reign, but even the surveys are suggesting the same. However, it is also being believed that Congress for a change is giving a tough fight to BJP and so is the print, electronic and social media indicating. despite the tough competition, the ruling BJP is adamant on winning 150+ seats of the total 182 and even the opinion polls are saying that the ruling party will win easily just like it did in 2012.

Now the question that is being raised is now that the Congress has managed to get the quite a few communities to their side, how come the surveys still predicting an easy win for BJP?

According to the surveys done by Axis-India Today and CSDS-ABP News, BJP is likely to win 120 and 117 seats respectively. Furthermore both the surveys have even claimed that BJP will maintain its vote share lead of 10 percent over the Congress, while CSDS claims it will come down to six percent. However, the common thing that both the surveys have suggested is a major decline in the support form the Patidars.

With recently, the Patidar agitation spearhead Hardik Patel extending its support to the Congress, the assertion has become even more strong regarding the decline in support from one of the oldest vote bank of the BJP i.e. the Patidars. As per the records and data, Patel votes account for one-fifth of the total vote share of BJP, approximately 10 percent out of 50 percent vote share of the BJP.

The Patidars are mainly divided into two categories, the Kadwa and the Leuva Patels. Compared to 2012, vote shares, the surveys suggest that there is a loss of votes from the Patidars for the BJP. As per the Axis-India Today survey, BJP can lose 43 percent support among the Kadwa, and 25 percent support among the Leuva Patels.

While the CSDS-ABP News survey, predicts that Patel’s votes will come down to  20 percent, unlike the 65 percent in 2012, for BJP. Moreover, since the Congress is also reviving its traditional KHAM alliance, BJP is also likely to lose the support among the Kolis and OBC Kshatriyas.

Talking about the Muslims support, it is the highest for the BJP in Gujarat, around 20 percent. But taking into account the current political dynamics at the national level, the party is also likely to lose this community’s support.

If seen on the wider angle, BJP has almost lost the support of Patidars, Kolis, OBC Kshatriyas, and Muslims, which is 10-11 percent vote share. Despite this, the party is confident about its victory because, though Congres might have been successful in breaking away the faith of quite a few communities, to go with BJp, it also lost some of the vote shares which were in their bank.

while Congress was busy wooing the Patidars and the Dalits and the other communities, BJP managed to fair well with the Scheduled Tribe voters (Adivasis) who have been traditional supporters of the Congress. According to the survey’s of CSDS, BJP is leading with 18 percent among the Scheduled Tribes, while it will also soon close the gap between the Dalits with the Congress. The survey also predicted that BJP is likely to gain 5-6% in vote share from the Dalits and the scheduled tribes.

STs account for 18 percent of the population of Gujarat and are concentrated in the districts of Dohad, Vadodara, Valsad, Surat, and Panchmahal As per the results of 2007 and 2012 results, the Congress had won 14 and 15 seats respectively of the total 27 seats. The Una incident, Jignesh Mevani-led protests and his support for the Congress party. CSDS survey has predicted that while Congress was leading the way by 14 percent among the Adivasis in 2012, but also said that the BJP will be leading the way by 18 percent.

The lead of 42 percent in 2012 among the Dalits is expected to reduce to eight percent as per the CSDS survey, as a result of the Una incident, Jignesh Mevani-led protests and his support for the Congress party.

Since BJP lost its vote share by the OBCs, Patidars and to some extent Muslims, but the SC and STs are likely to compensate for them. From these two segments, BJP will gain five-six percent vote share, thus leading Congress by six percent on an overall basis. The party is confident as it has also expanded its base on the social engineering front.

According to the views of the experts While Congress was busy rejuvenating KHAM and adding Patidars to make it KHAMP, BJP seems to have snatched ‘A’ from the alliance, thus reducing it to KHMP. Among the Dalits too, BJP has been able to make a dent and reduce Congress’ lead.

A few other major factors that can be seen as the reason for the shift of Adivasi votes to BJP are the works done by RSS- the parent party of BJP and the threat from the Patidars joining the Congress.

The RSS has been silently doing a lot of constructive work for the Adivasis, for some time now. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh through its Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra has been trying to gain ground in Adivasi areas of central and south Gujarat where Congress has a very old support base. The party has been running many Shishu mandirs, hospitals, and carrying out social work, through which it has managed to win the faith of the Adivasis.

The second reason may be the threat that they feel with the shift of Patidars with the Congress. During the 80’s the Dalits and the Adaasis suffered the violence unleashed by Patidars against the reservation policy of Madhavsinh Solanki-led Congress government. Later in 1985, the Muslims were also targetted. Now that the Patidars have extended their support to the Congress, these communities are fearing the same once again.

Looking at the prevailing condition, it seems like, though Congress has been successful in denting the vote bank of BJP by wooing the some of the supporters of the ruling party to their side, it failed in keeping its flock together. Therefore if it gained some support it also lost some support and this is the main reason that despite the tough fight that Congress is putting up against BJP, the latter is set to win the Gujarat assembly elections, as it is being predicted by many.

If BJP wins it will be the toughest political battle that Gujarat might have witnessed till now, but if the Congress wins it will be an even bigger story in wake of the upcoming Lok Sabha Polls due in 2019.