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Modi's charm ensures victory for BJP

Negative propaganda by Congress over development in Gujarat backfires

BS Reporter  |  Ahmedabad 

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's 115-seat win in proves that his charm and politics of development has worked well in snatching away votes from the party.

The emergency of the third front was deemed redundant as the Keshubhai Patel led Gujarat Partivartan Party (GPP) was not able to cut ice with the people. Also, the Patel factor raised by the GPP did not get any response from the people who had come out in historic numbers to vote during the two phased elections. GPP could only win three seats.

Though, the caste factor seemed to have worked in the Saurashtra region, it did not work in the more urban centres where Modi's development oriented election propaganda has found many takers. Experts believe that tribals in south and north Gujarat voted for the because of the infrastructure facilities developed in their regions over the past decade.

Further the lack of leadership, coordination in the opposition and absence of election issues gave Modi an additional advantage. The negative propaganda strategy applied by the and its top leaders, where they had rued about the lack of development in the state, especially for the poor, backfired.

Assembly polls: Total seats 182
Seat Split (vs Cong)
  BJP  Cong 
1995 121 45
1998 117 53
2002 127 51
2007 117 59
2012 115 61
Conclusion: The BJP/Cong performance has been broadly the same, from pre-Godhra and pre-Modi. Fact is, Gujarat is a state, and has been for a long time. Nothing has changed, except the Congress has failed to build on the slight improvement it showed in 2007 and before that in 1998.

Political analyst Ghanshyam Shah said that BJP's victory in the polls means that Modi's notion of development has worked out well. "Modi's charm and development politics has paid off which has resulted in him getting votes from the middle class," said Shah, former professor with the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

Vote Share in Gujarat Assembly Polls
  BJP  Cong 
1995 42.5 32.9
1998 44.8 34.9
2002 49.9 39.2
2007 49.1 38.0
2012 - -
Conclusion: Since 2002, it has become more of a two-party contest than before, as peripheral players have dropped off. Both parties have therefore gained vote share, but BJP is consistently ahead by 10 percentage points. If 2012 has repeated this pattern, then nothing has changed.

About what went wrong with the Congress Shah opined, "The Congress had no alternative for the development theory of Modi. Nor did they have any strategy to prove Modi's credentials wrong."

Also the third front failed to fire as it lacked organization and could not fight the modern election on individual basis, Shah said, adding that Keshubhai's old age was also a major factor who the GPP failed in this elections.

Another analyst and political observer Ashok Shrimali said that Congress's lack of leadership was a major factor behind their defeat. "They were not able to judge the undercurrent."

According to Sebastian Morris, professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A): "The middle class in Gujarat always wanted somebody to be in charge and they have continued to make sure it stays that way. What might have also worked in favour of the ruling party is that it made some interesting promises in the manifesto such as houses which is major need among peoples, girl child education and public health. However, these promises are equally challenging and we will have to see how each of them is fulfilled."

Morris further opined, "The question was not whether BJP would win but the difference by which it would. However, there are two types of changes seen during this elections. Firstly, there seems to be a positive change in favour of Congress wherein they have seen a marginal increase in number of seats so far. This shows a relative swing towards Congress despite the loss. Secondly, both Congress and BJP seem to have increased their percentage of votes which shows an increase in strategic voting in Gujarat keeping national level issues in mind."

Former member of the Planning Commission YK Alagh, added: "As we were moving into the last phase, the ruling party highlighted number of issues which were not done in the beginning like nutrition commission for women, infrastructure for smaller towns, educational infrastructure, and medical facilities, among others."

"What it goes on to show is that the election debate had brought out the real issues this time. For instance, Gujarat's industry doesn't need much state support but it is the tribals and smaller towns who need it. However, the ruling party has responded to these by agreeing to the debate," the former union minister opined.

Gujarat Lok Sabha polls: Total seats 26
  BJP  Cong 
1996 16 10
1998 19 7
1999 20 6
2004 14 12
2009 15 11
  • Certainly no Modi effect when it comes to Parliament; if anything, Congress has gained ground in Modi's time (part of general swing from NDA to UPA in 2004 and 2009).
  • Question: Does Modi make more of a difference in assembly polls, where he is the identifiable man for becoming CM, whereas the Congress has no state-level leader who counts?
  • Note: Voting percentage much lower in Lok Sabha polls (around 47% or less, against 60%+ in assembly polls).
Vote Share in Gujarat Lok Sabha Polls
  BJP  Cong 
1996 48.5 38.7
1998 48.3 36.5
1999 52.5 45.4
2004 47.4 43.9
2009 46.5 43.4
Conclusion: Congress, while the junior party, has been gaining ground in vote share, as it has done in seats. The vote gap between the two parties has narrowed from 10 percentage points to 3 percentage points, even as the BJP vote share has dropped in the last two elections after surging post-Godhra.

On caste politics Alagh said, "This may not have worked because this is a diverse state. Hence, the acceptance by major political parties of the diversity of Gujarat has worked in their favour, especially the ruling party." Shah too agreed with Alagh and said that cast equation would not have been significant.

First Published: Thu, December 20 2012. 18:46 IST