BJP all the way: With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intense campaign and a meticulously planned organisation strategy, the party, which was limited to 99 five years ago, is on course to win more than 150 seats Image Credit: Twitter

The biggest take away of the historic 2022 Gujarat assembly elections: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) won overwhelmingly because the PM raised Gujarati Asmita (regional identity) fully to his advantage.

The people of Gujarat felt a deep sense of pride in having “one of their own” in New Delhi. They saw no compelling reason to shift their vote to any other party or leader. In this election, BJP’s vote share increased to around 53% as it is set to get 157 out of 182 assembly seats.

Gujarati Asmita, Gujarati provincial ethos and the bonding through language have proven greater than real issues of day-to-day life that troubles ordinary Gujaratis.

Gujaratis behaved as per their well-known image. The voters preferred stability, security, and business-like government.

Modi and BJP’s image are totally solidified with Hindu identity issues. Now, their leaders don’t even talk about it publicly.

Supporters of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) burn firecrackers to celebrate after learning of the initial poll results of Gujarat state assembly election in Gandhinagar, India, December 8, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

AAP got 5 seats, much less than claimed by Arvind Kejriwal. A few months back many thought that AAP was getting 30% vote but when Kejriwal talked about Lakshmi (Hindu deity) on currency notes and kept silent on key issues like the release of Bilkis Banu rape case convicts, Muslims and Dalits quietly shifted their vote back to the Congress.

Gujaratis have not felt attracted by freebies offered by AAP, as they view it as burden on economy and therefore unviable.

Congress' down fall is mostly self inflicted and partly scripted by Modi (since 1987).

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Modi-centric election

In the Modi-centric election, naturally Modi won. The PM had a long-cherished dream of breaking the 1985 record when Congress’s able and strong chief minister, Madhavsinh Solanki, had won 149 seats.

Solanki had stitched Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasi, Muslims (KHAM) alliance. It was an alliance of have-nots. Socially backward and poor people were the backbone of Solanki’s politics. This combination of castes and communities gave him a massive victory.

But, today in his native place Borsad in Central Gujarat, BJP defeated Congress – for the first time since the inception of Gujarat state. Borsad was Congress’s strongest seat.

Modi magic working in Borsad has huge significance. With Borsad turning saffron, Modi has buried KHAM, fully and finally in Gujarat.

Modi Gujarat polls
Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters on his way to the polling booth to cast his vote for the second phase of Gujarat Assembly elections, in Ahmedabad on Monday, December 5, 2022. Image Credit: ANI

The PM’s dream and vision of winning Gujarat was made into a clever strategy by Amit Shah. For the last six months, Modi connected emotionally – and directly - to Gujarati voters once more and refreshed their memories. In North Gujarat he even went on to say, “Call me Narendra Bhai. I am just one of you.”

When Modi was building hopes for the voters through rallies on Ground Zero, Shah ensured that the caste combination in each constituency worked in favour of the BJP candidates.

This massive exercise took 6 to 8 weeks when Shah met all the district leaders and finalised the blueprint of caste networking for each constituency. The increase in vote share of the BJP is due to large number of Patels voting for the BJP - compared to 2017.

The weaving of castes according to the requirement of each constituency - to counter the opposition candidates was one of the major factors behind BJP victory.

The caste of Congress and AAP leaders was countered by the polarisation of the castes traditionally opposed to them. Due to a triangular contest between BJP, Congress and AAP this time, Shah was extra careful in his counter caste equations.

Also, except for a handful of constituencies, BJP didn’t provoke Hindu identity issues as was the case in 2002 or 2007.

Congress cut to size, AAP gets royal ignore

BJP “wickedly” used the presence of AAP to cut their main rival Congress to size. At the same time in public rallies the BJP stoutly denied any presence of AAP and completely ignored it - to not give them any heft.

BJP’s money, muscle and manpower helped them run the extra mile.

The Saffron party lost Himachal Pradesh badly and, also, the MCD elections in Delhi. In fact, Indian voters gave all parties something to cheer about and a lot to worry about.

Pradeep Gupta of Axis India, who did a difficult poll survey and has been proven correct, told me, “There were lessons to learn for all parties. AAP victory was huge in MCD in Delhi but their vote share reduced from 54% to 42%. In Delhi, MCD involves all assembly constituencies unlike other states.”

This should be a matter of worry for Arvind Kejriwal. In Himachal Pradesh, Congress won impressively but it also shows us that even without their key leaders if the party cadres work hard on ground, Congress can still win elections.

“With its massive win in Gujarat, expectations have risen for the BJP. The party will now have to work much harder to keep voters satisfied,” Gupta concluded.