Gujarat elections: opposition uniting or breaking up?

This is an exciting time to be in politics and media. Perhaps never before has India seen the youth as politically aware than this generation. This year, a generation of first time voters will vote in an election where they have never seen a non-BJP government in Gujarat. The BJP has been in power in Gujarat for over twenty years, and as a home state of the Prime Minister and BJP President, the election in Gujarat will reflect how they could hope to fare in the 2019 General Elections.

July-August 2017 saw mutiny of Gujarat Congress leaders joining BJP en masse and Rajya Sabha elections where Congress chose to save Ahmed Patel by taking about 44 Gujarat Congress MLAs to Bengaluru even as Gujarat was inundated with one of the worst floods in a decade. Not to mention that during the run up to the exodus, Shankersinh Vaghela, former BJP leader and then Leader of Opposition in Gujarat Assembly, kept Gujarat Congress on tenterhooks about which side would he swing eventually left Congress high and dry to start his own political outfit Jan Vikalp.

If that was a sneak peak into the drama upcoming Gujarat elections would be, we can just say that we’ve had a great opening. The initial drama in the upcoming Gujarat assembly elections, first without Narendra Modi as chief ministerial candidate in over a decade, which could have been the most boring in years, got everyone excited.

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We have already discussed how this election won’t be a cakewalk for the BJP, considering it is facing a twenty year anti-incumbency here. While 150+ seats in the Assembly of 182 seats seems a bit too far-fetched, one could still expect BJP to win anything between 100-110 seats. Mostly because of lack of credible opposition than anything else.

Congress, which has lost its relevance across the country, will find it really hard to justify the Bengaluru stint of 44 sitting MLAs in middle of floods during Rajya Sabha elections. Jan Vikalp outfit by Shankersinh Vaghela aims to be a third front. Just before 2012 elections, former Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP rebel leader Keshubhai Patel had formed Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) along with other BJP rebel leaders Gordhan Zadafia and Suresh Mehta in an attempt to lead a third front and won 2 seats. Right before 2014 elections, though, in February 2014, GPP merged with the BJP to support the then prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

2014 changed everything. From interpersonal friendships to political landscape in India. Everyone is talking about politics. People have opinion. Even those who don’t want to engage in a political dialogue have an opinion. It is very dynamic. This has led to emergence of few new faces. Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor.

Jignesh Mevani is a former journalist who worked with Mukul Sinha, a lawyer and a very vocal Modi critic, before joining Aam Aadmi Party as a spokesperson. He led the ‘Una agitation’ back in 2016 over the issue of atrocities against dalits, after which he quit AAP citing his political affiliations might split the movement. AAP Supremo Arvind Kejriwal, who is known to run his government through Twitter while snakes and monkeys spend their days in Delhi Assembly, has till now only one tweet in support of Mevani.

One wonders about the real reason of why Mevani distanced himself from AAP and if AAP is trying to get him back with their eyes on Gujarat polls. It is still not clear yet whether Mevani will join active politics or not.

Second is Alpesh Thakor, the OBC leader from Gujarat, who after remaining ‘apolitical’ till now, will formally join Congress tomorrow. He has been fighting for the reservation SC, ST and the OBC are entitled to and proper implementation of prohibition law. Of course, his father, Khodabhai Patel was a Congress leader and Alpesh had earlier opposed Hardik Patel’s Patidar agitation and cracks were seen between two ‘friends’. In his attempt to support farmer loan waiver, Thakor had emptied milk cans on the roads as mark of protest. On a personal note, it is extremely insensitive to damage food and water as a mark of protest. Finally, after a lot of drama, Thakor met Rahul Gandhi last evening and decided to formally join Congress.

Last but not the least, the third ‘yuva neta’ Hardik Patel who had a mysterious meteoric rise in 2015 with his agitation demanding reservation for Patidar community and to include them in the OBC quota. What followed was a lot of drama with Hardik being booked for sedition, to being directed to leave Gujarat for 6 months by Gujarat High Court, to his aide writing open letters accusing Hardik of using the agitation as platform to satiate his greed for power and money to finally Hardik joining hands with Shiv Sena to campaign against BJP in the BMC polls held earlier this year. As of now, Patel is now reduced to a troll on Twitter, with little relevance on field. In a surprise move, his aides, Reshma Patel and Varun Patel, joined the BJP yesterday.

With the pressure of polls building up, the political parties are leaving no stone unturned to get that little extra edge, that one last swing of votes to bring a grand climax to an extremely politically exciting year that 2017 has been.

Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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