After its big electoral success in Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been eyeing Gujarat. AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been touring the length and breadth of the State in the last few months, trying to establish a connect with the people of Gujarat and to challenge the claims of development by the ruling BJP government in the State. His aggressive campaign against poor governance in the State seems to be bearing some fruit, as a large number of voters seems convinced that there is need for a third alternative in Gujarat. A State long known for its bi-party structure of competition now seems to be exploring the possibility of a third alternative.
In the Lokniti-CSDS survey, when asked if they think there is need for a third alternative besides the BJP and the Congress in the State, as many as 61% of the respondents agreed that there this (Table 1). While the survey can’t tell us how AAP has been able to convince such a large number of people of the need for a third alternative in the State, the survey does indicate that this opinion is shared by voters of different political parties. It is not surprising to note that the desire for a third alternative is highest among AAP voters, but what is interesting is that half the voters who intend to vote for the BJP in the forthcoming Assembly elections also support the idea of a third alternative in the State (Table 2). Those with higher media exposure share this view more firmly compared to those with less media exposure (Table 3).
Findings of the survey indicate a peculiar paradox. This desire for a third alternative is not because people feel that the BJP government, which has been in power for the last 27 years, has not done any work in the State; on the contrary, a very large number of people said the BJP government’s record on development has been very good. In fact, 71% people believe that there has been development, but some of those who hold this opinion still want to give a chance to a new political party. This opinion is shared more by urban voters compared to rural voters (Table 4).
This strong desire for change of government in the State may not get reflected in the voting trends as perception plays an important role in elections. Findings of the survey indicate that while there is a clear desire for a third party, there is a vertical split in the opinion whether the AAP can win the election. A little less than one-third of the voters think the AAP could only be a spoiler, while a similar number of voters believes it could form the government. The remaining one-thirds do not hold any opinion on this (Table 5).
Sanjay Kumar is Professor and Co-director Lokniti-CSDS, and Suhas Palshikar taught political science and is chief editor of Studies in Indian Politics