Let us look at the prediction of the Gujarat Elections. This is the first election where Congress has projected the election as Rahul v/s Modi. They have directly challenged the growing ‘Modification’ across all the states since 2014.
The HAJ factor (Hardik-Alpesh-Jignesh)
Congress knows that they cannot win alone in Gujarat. Hence, they have cleverly managed to garner support of Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor & Jignesh Mevani in order to sway the Patels, OBCs & Dalits towards them. Congress is happy to give their organizational & financial support to these youth leaders in the hope that they will help the Congress to topple the 22-year-old BJP rule in the state.
A 3rd front has never succeeded in defeating BJP in the past elections in Gujarat. This was seen in 2012 when Kesubhai Patel broke away from BJP and floated his own party. His party could only win 2 seats.
BJP has been able to tackle anti-incumbency under Modi in Gujarat in past elections. For the voters in Gujarat, it has always been ‘Amaro Modi’ first & then the party. For them, both are separate entities. This has now changed at the ground level which in turn has led to recent losses to BJP in the local elections. However, this loss has been a blessing in disguise since it has given Amit Shah the required time to course correct and address key underlying issues before the assembly elections.
Gujarat has always been bi-polar in elections with Congress being in power from 1962 until 1995 and BJP since 1995 onwards. This shows that anti-incumbency may not be enough to topple the government.
The Numbers game
Gujarat elections are all about caste and voting arithmetic. BJP has mastered this art and has historically won many elections with a comfortable margin and proved the pollsters wrong.
BJP hopes that they can do the same this time round, notwithstanding the Patidar movement against them. The Patidar movement has divided Gujarat voters as Patidars v/s Non-Patidars. Both set of voters are hoping that their vote will lead Congress or BJP to victory. The Patidars comprise approximately 14% of the voters. But that may not necessarily be a winning margin for Congress. Hardik only has the youth with him – especially the males. The older generation are hardcore Modi supporters and will vote for him only. After the sex-tape scandals, women voters may revert to BJP.
The 2012 election data tabulated below shows that in more than 50% of the seats, BJP’s winning margin is greater than 14% & in ~70% of seats, the margin is greater than 10%. For the Congress, 43% of its seats have been won on thin margins of up to 5%. These numbers suggest that for BJP to lose these elections, there would need to be high levels of anti-incumbency along with swing votes across 50% of their seats.
Business Community Votes
There may be some churn among the businessmen in the urban region, but not enough to swing majority of seats over to the Congress. The way a Gujarati psyche works is that they may criticize you a lot and raise a lot of issues they are facing. But that may not mean that they will not vote for you or desert you. They want a constructive dialogue on their issues and if there are steps taken to address the issues, they are fine with it. Hence on the GST front, steps taken by the government in easing the process and revising the rates would help in calming the business community. This business community has flourished in the last 22 years under BJP and they would in most probability give Modi one more year to address the issues because of demonetization & GST.
Tribal Belt & OBCs
BJP in this election is looking to further consolidate within the Tribal belt. Last time they won only 10 out of total of 27 seats in the Tribal region. This year they have announced series of welfare measures and development schemes both by state and central government. In addition to this, the RSS has accelerated their work in the Adivasi areas since the last 1 year. Schools run by VHP within the Tribal region have doubled from 300 to 700 within a year. In addition, there is a micro level outreach program towards the Tribals by RSS to educate them more towards Hinduism.
Milk Cooperative Strategy
In this election, BJP has made use of milk cooperatives to garner votes. For the first time the BJP has control over all the milk cooperatives in Gujarat. 8% of electorate (3.6 million) are directly impacted by the milk industry. Farmers in Gujarat are getting the highest rate on milk sold to the cooperatives. Gujarat has 18,000 villages and each of the village has a ‘mandali or society’ which are involved in milk procurement and have close link with the cooperatives to give advice to the farmers. BJP, for the first time, has stated using this connection to directly campaign with the farmers on the good work done by them. Each of the ‘mandali’ chairperson has been entrusted to reach out to every voter at the booth level. They also get feedback on issues and pass it on to the Senior BJP machinery. This level of micro campaigning has been devised for the first time by Amit Shah in these elections.
Women vote bank
Women voter turnout has been increasing in each of the elections. At the national level, the difference in margin is only 2% with that of the male voter turnout. Earlier Congress was well entrenched with women voters. Since 2014 BJP has systematically taken steps to sway women voters towards them. For example, they have taken a clear stand on Triple Talaq & have recently also drafted a law on the same which they will introduce in the winter session of the parliament. The government is also working on the women reservation bill which will reserve 33% of seats in parliament to women. This bill has been pending since the last 2 decades. In addition, few women related schemes have also been implemented such as increasing the maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. There are 1.6 billion working women who will be benefited by this scheme.
As per my model, BJP will win 134 seats with vote share ~50% !
If BJP manages to better their 2012 numbers, there will be no stopping them in winning in 2019 !