This round of polls in Gujarat elicits various responses, none as strong as the supposed inevitability of a BJP win, the only people not so sanguine about result day, however, are party old timers, who are intent on whipping the vote out come polling day.
At his election office in the Sabarmati Assembly constituency in Ahmedabad, Harshad Patel, a long time election agent for Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and finally a candidate himself for the seat, says that while he has no doubt the BJP will win, he has set a target for himself, of ensuring 75% voting on polling day. “Our karyakartas get their best out in a state of struggle, this election is not like the last time around and therefore we need to set proper tasks on getting the vote out,” said Mr. Patel.
The BJP dropped nearly 42 sitting MLAs and replaced them with fresh candidates, in part, even former Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, former Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel along with other stalwarts were dropped from the candidate list, say party insiders to combat the feeling of fatigue among the party’s own voters who have seen 27 years of uninterrupted rule by the BJP. The faces of the Opposition fight in 2017, like Alpesh Thakore and Hardik Patel are part of the BJP now, as well as 15-17 Congress MLAs who had won in 2017. A situation that, Mr. Patel said, should be combated by setting goals for the party’s formidable election machinery, of which he has intimate knowledge.
Rallies by Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too seems to be aware of the danger of complacency, and has criss-crossed the State in a blitz of rallies, most of them in seats where the party lost in 2017. In total, Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to address 28 rallies, and has addressed nine rallies since the dates for the polls were announced. A look at where he has addressed rallies shows his state of mind. He visited Somnath temple [where the BJP lost all four Gir-Somnath Assembly seats], then to Dhoraji in Rajkot, held by the Congress, followed by Amreli where again the BJP had lost all five Assembly seats. He also addressed rallies in Botad, Valsad, Surendranagar, barring Valsad the other two venues were tough sells for BJP.
“Even going ahead, Mr. Modi will be addressing rallies where the party needs a leg-up,” said a source.
Yamal Vyas, chief spokesperson of the BJP in Gujarat, says with the page system put in place, in-charges of each page on a constituency’s voter list will have an effect on bringing up the vote. “Our page system is good at getting voters out,” he said.
All this points to the fact that beneath the surface of a seemingly somnolent election that seems to be going one way, the real challenge is to ensure that the vote turns out. For a cadre-driven, task-driven party like the BJP, it is not a challenge that is undoable.