February 18, 2020
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On Paper, Congress + Vaghela Are Winners

On Paper, Congress + Vaghela Are Winners
How well will the BJP fare in the Gujarat elections? Analysis based on data from the 1998 assembly polls suggests that it won't be a cakewalk for the party. Had Shankersinh Vaghela's erstwhile All India Rashtriya Janata Party (AIRJP) and the Congress fought the '98 polls together, the combine would have won 98 seats. The BJP's tally would have been reduced to 84 in a house of 182.

Vaghela, now with the Congress, will transfer his 11.68 per cent voteshare to the latter. Thus, 41 additional seats would fall in the Congress kitty if we combine the AIRJP and Congress voteshare. That is assuming that all other factors remained unchanged from 1998. But this is not the case. By a strange coincidence, most of the 41 seats fall in areas which saw intense rioting. And riots can polarise voters.

In Gujarat, Dalits and Adivasis, who form a significant part of the Congress' support base, participated in the riots. In south Gujarat, the Adivasis perceive the dominant Bohra Muslims as exploiters. Narendra Modi has visited Dalits and Adivasis affected by Muslim counter-attacks. This has earned him much goodwill among this influential section. It's also felt the Congress would side with Muslims if it comes to power.

Poor governance and infighting between Keshubhai Patel and Modi is the BJP's bane. Power scarcity, water shortage and inflation are also issues that go against it. BJP needs a swing of 3 per cent to get over 100 seats while Congress will require a 1.5 per cent anti-BJP swing to get the same number of seats.

(The author is director, Centre for Forecasting and Research.)

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