Gujarat Election

Ahmedabad: As the campaigning by the political parties for the Gujarat Assembly elections, due in the first week of December, goes full steam now, they have been focusing sharply on the 44 metropolitan seats in eight municipal corporation belts — Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Gandhinagar, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, and Junagadh — across the state.

The urban assembly constituencies of Gujarat have always been an important bastion for the ruling BJP, giving the party a decisive edge in election after election. However, apart from BJP’s traditional rival Congress, two more players, Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) are now keen to contest these seats. Which is why this time he has raised his election stakes.

Its near-total dominance in the urban seats has always been at the heart of the saffron party’s winning streak in Gujarat since 1995.

In the 2012 assembly elections, out of a total of 44 urban seats in the state, the BJP won 40. In Ahmedabad, out of 16 seats, the party won 13. It won all 12 seats in the urban areas of Surat and all five seats in the urban areas of Vadodara. Similarly, it won all four seats, two each in Bhavnagar and Gandhinagar. In Rajkot, it won three of the four seats.

In the last 2017 assembly elections, the BJP won the election but registered its lowest tally since 1995, winning 99 of the total 182 seats in the state. The elections were held against the backdrop of the Patidar quota agitation and the subsequent emergence of three youth leaders – Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor, and Jignesh Mevani. This damaged the party’s prospects in rural areas, especially in the Saurashtra region.

However, in the 2017 elections also the BJP managed to hold on to its urban seats with 39 seats, just one less than the previous elections. In Ahmedabad, the party won 12 seats, while in Surat and Vadodara it won all 12 and five seats, respectively. It also won all the urban seats in Rajkot (4), Bhavnagar (2), and Jamnagar (2).

In the upcoming assembly elections, a tough fight can be seen between BJP and AAP, especially in Surat city. Some top leaders of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), which spearheaded the Patidar reservation movement – Gopal Italia, Alpesh Kathiria, and Dharmic Malviya – are currently contesting from Surat as AAP candidates.

On 17 November, Kanchan Jariwala, the AAP’s candidate from Surat East, withdrew her nomination, accusing the BJP of allegedly kidnapping and coercing her out of the fray, which the BJP contested. dismissed as baseless.

AIMIM’s entry may be notable in some seats in Ahmedabad city which have a sizeable Muslim population, such as Jamalpur-Khadia, Dariyapur, Danilimda, Bapunagar, and Vejalpur. However, on 19 November, Shahnawaz Khan, the AIMIM candidate from Bapunagar, withdrew his nomination and announced his support to Congress. In all, AIMIM has fielded 13 candidates across the state.

A senior BJP leader from urban Gujarat said, “Urban seats can be considered as the backbone of our party. It is very crucial not only for maintaining a decisive majority over Opposition but also for the fact that it revolves around the party’s core political ideology of Hindutva.”
The BJP leader also said, “Except those urban seats where there is minority domination like Jamalpur-Khadia, Dariapur, and Danilimda in Ahmedabad, we don’t see any major Opposition in urban segments. One of the major reasons for this is the communal violence that the cities of Ahmedabad, Surat, and Vadodara have seen in the 1980s and 1990s. After that, BJP has come to power and people have seen the difference. Communal safety is the key consideration for an urban voter and precisely for that reason no party is even close to BJP in urban areas.”

He also said, “And an incident like the Aaftab Poonawala-Shraddha Walkar case can further polarise the urban people, who are mostly educated, in favor of BJP. After such incidents, people will take the hardcore Hindutva line thinking that there is no alternative to BJP.”
According to the BJP leader, the infrastructure created by the BJP in Gujarat’s urban belts and the facilities set up at places of worship like Ambaji, Somnath, Pavagadh, etc. are “added advantages” for the party there. “In 2017, we were facing so much opposition from even the Patidar community, and yet the urban seats remained with us. Whereas in 2022, there is no agitation, and Hardik (Patel) and Alpesh (Thakor) are with BJP whereas (Jignesh) Mevani does not have a great following in urban areas. So, we will continue to roll in urban seats.”

On the AAP’s impact on urban seats, he claimed, “AAP is not going to be a factor for BJP. People have realized that it is just making hollow promises and nothing else. Out of (every) 10 votes that AAP may get in urban areas, eight are going to be those of Congress. It is going to be a major spoiler for Congress this time and one of the reasons for our comfort.”

The BJP leader further said that the recent video of the AAP’s jailed Delhi minister Satyendra Jain getting a massage and old videos of Gujarat AAP chief Gopal Italia’s alleged remarks “against the Hindu community and Prime Minister Narendra Modi could prove costly to the AAP in urban areas”.

The AAP, however, believes that the elections in urban areas are this time going to be fought on “real issues of the people” while going “beyond Hindutva-based politics”. The AAP’s spokesperson Yogesh Jadvani predicts 25-30 seats for the party in urban segments.

“For BJP, Hindutva-based politics was an easy and cheap politics available to it. But, this time around, for the first time, the state is witnessing issue-based politics,” said Jadvani. “In urban areas, common people live who are feeling harassed by a rise in costs of education, electricity, and house rents. And so, they are attracted by various guarantees given by Arvind Kejriwal like up to 300 units of free electricity, free health, free education, etc. We are going to win 25-30 seats from the urban pockets.”

The Congress also reiterates this, hoping to improve its performance in urban seats. Party’s oldest spokesperson Manish Doshi said, ‘We worked hard in urban areas in 2017, but did not get the desired result. But in 2022, we are very confident that our performance will improve.

He also said, “There are four major issues of education, employment, health, and tax in urban areas. And people have realized that we are talking about real issues, unlike BJP. We have promised to bring the Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme. So, we are hopeful”.

By Archana

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