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Gujarat Elections 2022 | CSDS-Lokniti survey findings
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The leadership sweepstakes: a State election with national leaders as the face of their parties
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The survey found over one-thirds of the respondents favoured Narendra Modi

November 03, 2022 12:25 am | Updated 09:18 am IST

File photo of Arvind Kejriwal during an Aam Aadmi Party’s Sammelan.

File photo of Arvind Kejriwal during an Aam Aadmi Party’s Sammelan. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

In the recent past, the leadership factor has been a key role in determining the success of parties at both central and state level. How critical could the leadership factor be in Gujarat? Given the fact that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) went in for a major overhaul in the State of not merely replacing the Chief Minister but much of the Council of Ministers was by itself indicative of how important the party saw the role of its national leadership and party organisation. The rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Gujarat is also seen to revolve around its national leadership. 

The Lokniti-CSDS poll indicates some interesting trends on people’s preference for the Chief Minister of the State. In an open-ended question on who they would prefer as the Chief Minister of the State after the next election (there was no prompt for names) (Table 1), there was no clear winner with a sizeable lead or majority. The incumbent Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel had the support of a little over one-sixth of the respondents. One in every ten favoured his predecessor, Vijay Rupani.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal were tied at the second place. Clearly, the expectation on either Mr. Modi or Mr. Kejriwal would not be translated into reality given the positions they currently hold. No other leader truly captured the imagination of the respondents. In 2017, the then Chief Minister Vijay Rupani was endorsed as the preferred Chief Ministerial choice by one-fourth of the respondents. State leaders of Congress do not figure anywhere in this competition. This makes it clear that in all the three major political parties, the national leaders will be the ones around whom the campaign would revolve. 

In a face-off on the popularity of Mr. Modi and Mr. Kejriwal (Table 2), the survey found some interesting trends. A little over one-thirds of the respondents favoured Mr. Modi while two of every ten endorsed Mr. Kejriwal. Another two of every ten favoured both while another one of every ten disliked both. Mr. Modi was ahead of Mr. Kejriwal in all demographic groups with the variation being a minimum of 11 percentage points among urban voters and a maximum of 35 percentage points among the more affluent. One already notices the focus on the two leaders in the early days of the campaign. 

More than half the respondents said that the BJP would be in a comfortable position in the coming elections even if Mr. Modi were not to campaign in the State (Table 3). Close to one-thirds of the respondents disagreed with this assessment. Two-thirds of those who supported the BJP said that the party could win the polls even if Mr. Modi did not campaign (Table 4). There was less support for this stand among supporters of the AAP and the Congress, where less than half endorsed this position. In the case of Congress, supporters more were likely to take a negative stand on the question asserting that the absence of Mr. Modi in the BJP could dent their prospects. 

If the start of the campaign in the State is any indicator, all the three major political players seem to be banking on their national level leaders to be the face of their respective campaigns. While the role and relevance of national leadership of the Congress in this contest is unclear, the campaign seems to be leading to at least a clash of the two leaders: Mr. Modi and Mr. Kejriwal. This factor alone may make the election a very interesting one. 

A note on methodology

Sandeep Shastri is Vice Chancellor at Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal and the National Co-ordinator of the Lokniti network

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