National Election Study 2014 Comment

Gujarat: Rise of the One-Party State

With Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate, a massive victory in Gujarat for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was not unexpected. Yet, the Gujarat results will be seen as historic, as for the first time there will be no Congress representative from Gujarat in the Parliament.

At one point Gujarat was spoken of as the Hindutva laboratory. This time, Gujarat proved to be the laboratory of the BJP to reach the Centre. In almost all the rallies across the country, Mr. Modi propagated his work in Gujarat and promised to implement his Gujarat model of development in the country. But in Gujarat, perhaps there was no need to talk of the Gujarat model; the elections were mainly fought on the issue of a Gujarati Prime Minister for the Nation.

Narendra Modi and the BJP repeatedly played this issue of Gujarati Asmita (Pride) and in many rallies across Gujarat, Mr. Modi referring to Sardar Patel said, “Gujarat lost an opportunity in 1947 but now you have a chance to make a Gujarati the Prime Minister.” He would further ask, “Will you lose this opportunity this time?” And the crowd would reply with a roar of “No.” He would ask again, “Do you want just an MP or a PM?” The answer lies in the results.

The entire BJP campaign in Gujarat revolved around this issue and that paid off well, and the Congress could not secure even a single seat this time. The BJP secured 59.1 per cent of the total votes and the Congress only 32.9 per cent. This means that the vote share difference between the two parties which was a narrow three percentage points during the 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections, increased to a massive 26 percentage points this time. Around 47 per cent respondents in the post-poll survey said that after the results they would like to see Narendra Modi as India’s next Prime Minister. As against this, only 18 per cent respondents preferred Rahul Gandhi for the top post.

Post-poll survey figures also indicate that the voting choice was made chiefly on the question of prime ministerial candidate. Around 33 per cent of the people said that ‘PM Candidate’ was the most important for them while voting. Moreover among the BJP voters at least one in every five BJP voter voted for the party because Mr. Modi was the PM candidate. On the leadership issue, there was no question whatsoever of any Congress leader even coming near Mr. Modi in terms of popularity or people’s confidence.

When such a one-sided outcome shapes, it obviously negates traditional calculations of social and regional base of different parties. Unlike its usual performance for the very first time, the BJP has done extremely well in the tribal areas of Central Gujarat, which is otherwise considered a bastion of the Congress. Most other social sections witnessed unprecedented consolidation in favour of BJP: over eighty per cent of the upper castes; 70 per cent Patels; 60 per cent Kshatriyas; 79 per cent Kolis; and 70 per cent other OBCs reported to have voted for the BJP. This left only the Dalits and Muslims with the Congress party. While two in every three Muslims still voted for Congress, this was not the case for Dalits. Not even half of the Dalit voters supported the Congress. In other words, while the BJP consolidated its base that of the Congress got further eroded.

Coming in the wake of the series of consecutive Assembly defeats, this result only highlights the deep rooted problems faced by the Congress party in Gujarat. The demoralised leadership has lost connect with the grassroots. But more than that, these defeats have now produced a State Congress party that is practically leaderless. The defeats of Central Ministers like Bharatsingh Solanki and Dinsha Patel only underscore this situation. As Mr. Modi moves to the Center, he leaves the legacy of a practically one-party state behind!

(Mahashweta  Jani is Ahmedabad-based researcher and Bhanu Parmar teaches at Nalini Arts College, Vidyanagar, Gujarat)

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 4:19:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/gujarat-rise-of-the-oneparty-state/article6151652.ece

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