The Gujarat election has come to be viewed as the mother of all elections and for good reasons. It is a “prestige battle” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah and they cannot afford to lose their home turf. Nothing consolidates power like an election victory. Few think that the BJP will accomplish the Gujarat mission of 150 seats set for the party by Shah. The Congress is putting up a stiff fight. The importance attached to the election by the BJP is writ large on the decision to schedule the winter session of Parliament post-election which helps the party to escape tough questions on demonetisation and the goods and services tax (GST), and allows its top guns to campaign in the state. The question in everyone’s mind is whether the Modi magic will work this time in his home state with an undercurrent of resentment over demonetisation and GST.
In a clear indication of his waning popularity he nearly came a cropper in the last Baroda road show. Modi’s accusation that the Gandhis harbour a grudge against Gujarat seems to cut no ice with the voters. He cannot now complain as his party has not carried through on its poll promises made in 2012. The Opposition for once dubbed the sleazy videos featuring Hardik Patel as an insult to the women of Gujarat and forced the BJP to backtrack. It is evident from UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s observation that Rahul Gandhi does not know how to sit for a puja that his temple visits have unnerved the BJP. With Congress-Hardik Patel pact sealed, the feasibility of quota for Patidars is being questioned by the BJP and BJP-friendly media. The three musketeers — Jignesh Mevani, Alpesh Thakor and Patel — can turn the tables on Shah and snatch a dramatic victory for the Congress giving a good start to Rahul Gandhi as party president.
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