BJP’S election machine is already at work in Gujarat

Modi has decided to make Gujarat a key focus until the assembly polls later this year and will visit the state frequently with outreach programmes.

The BJP is a party that does not believe in any electoral inertia. With Uttar Pradesh safely tucked under its belt, the party has now set its focus on Gujarat, where polls are due later this year, and has started a pre-campaign of sorts, all guns blazing.

And what better trump card to flash than Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been the longest serving Chief Minister of Gujarat. It’s clear that Modi has decided to make Gujarat a key focus until the assembly polls and is systematically approaching the elections there. His two-day visit to the state earlier this week was just a beginning and with the stage having been set, party sources say the PM will continue visiting the state frequently with outreach programmes that will build up to the election campaign.

Modi held a massive road show in Surat during his visit to Gujarat on Sunday and Monday. Picking Surat is an interesting electoral tactic. Surat is a melting pot of sorts with a significant Patel population and also of people from the Saurashtra region. The latter are hugely significant because the region has always been a fulcrum of BJP’s success in the state polls. The message was clear: Modi wants to further consolidate his party’s hold over this constituency.

However, even more interesting is his approach to the Patidar or Patel community. The incumbent BJP has faced a severe backlash from this community in the last few years over quotas in jobs and education. Besides Surat, Modi also visited Bhavnagar, which again has a significant Patel population. The PM went on to inaugurate a hospital built by the Patidar Samaj Arogya Trust. With this, Modi has clearly attempted to reach out to this constituency ahead of the polls.

Yet another constituency Modi sought to target during this visit was the tribal community. There was some concern in the BJP about Congress gaining ground among the tribals. In his schedule, Modi also inaugurated a dairy plant in Bajipura village of Tapi district. Tapi is a tribal dominated district and the political message of this move hasn’t been lost on anyone.

Clearly, the Patel and tribal communities were the big focus of Modi’s Gujarat visit, a shrewd tactic to mitigate the less favourable aspects ahead of elections due in December.

What is interesting is how PM Modi has started using road shows as a device of routine outreach and not just in the thick of an election campaign as he’s done in the past. His road shows in Odisha and Gujarat over the last week are a case in point.

Sources say while the BJP does not believe Aam Aadmi Party will be a factor in Gujarat, it does see the NCP making inroads. However, the understanding in the party is that the NCP is going to cut the anti-BJP vote and hence not cause much harm to it. The Congress, meanwhile, is yet to get its act together in the state.

But as far as the BJP is concerned, it has decided to focus all its electoral energies on Gujarat. Sources in the party say it is important for the party to not just win the state but also to do so convincingly, and the PM is their best bet for it. The BJP won 115 of the 182 seats in the 2012 state elections, and party president Amit Shah recently said they were now targeting more than 150 seats.

What stands out after this Gujarat visit is BJP and Modi’s unblinkered electoral ambition. In the recent state polls, the BJP managed to form a government in four of five states. With Gujarat holding special significance for Modi, it’s unlikely his party or he would spare any effort to hold on to power in the state.

Ruhi Tewari is Associate Editor with ThePrint. You can follow her on Twitter @RuhiTewari

Picture Courtesy: Narendra Modi’s Twitter handle

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