As the commercial capital of Gujarat, Surat has always been high-maintenance for politicians. But in this election, when it is reviewing its steadfast loyalty to the BJP, its political intensity has peaked.
The second-largest city in state after Ahmedabad, embodies core Gujarati values – of trade and enterprise, of immigrants elbowing their way in to claim a stake of the bustling commerce, of staunch Hinduism, of diamonds and textiles creating dramatic fortunes like the tycoon who three years ago gifted his employees with apartments and cars for Diwali.Since 2002, the BJP has won every single one of the 16 assembly seats in the Surat district.
If, however, there is no swing, the BJP will be back in the saddle for a fifth consecutive term.But the script is still in the realm of possibility, even if its vocabulary is replete with ‘ifs’. The BJP has consistently secured 40-49 per cent of the vote in Gujarat since 1995, the year it first came to power. A combination of caste calculations, Hindutva, and Narendra Modi’s charisma has kept it in power for the past 19 years.
Gujarat’s famed business community — particularly those who run small and medium businesses — took a battering in last year’s demonetization exercise, and was harrowed by the GST’s implementation earlier this year. Since then, the Centre has scrambled to salvage matters by easing the GST compliance burden and rationalizing tax rates. While some sections have stopped shaking their fists, anger among the traders, who have been traditional supporters of the BJP, is simmering.
The master campaigner has swooped down on his home-State, and some slog-over hitting could see the BJP romp home with many overs in hand. He is still the State’s most popular leader, with a CSDS poll giving him approval ratings of 66 per cent in October.In the end, it makes material sense for a Gujarati to have a BJP government in the State when the party is in power at the Centre. Modi has been showering goodies on the State — including a bullet train to Mumbai — and the people in the State would want to keep it going.
BJP leaders have also been looking at the Congress campaign. The Congress booth management will not work as the party doesn’t have units at district levels. The Vaghela factor will also help BJP as he still holds sway in some seats of Banaskantha and parts of North Gujarat. The party is also banking heavily on the tribal electorate that comprises 14 per cent in the State.Tribal areas from Ambaji to Umargaon which has 26 seats also among its focus areas. State Party President has carried out a Adivasi gaurav yatra there.
Gujarat is spread across three regions of the State right from Ambaji in the North, to Godhra in Central Gujarat to Umargaon in the South and comprises four parliamentary constituencies — Dahod, ChhotaUdepur, Bardoli and Valsad.Adivasi voters influence other Lok Sabha constituencies, Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, Panchmahals, Bharuch and Navsari, all of which are presently with the BJP.