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Talk Point : Caste groups siding with Congress will throw up surprises in Gujarat polls

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Ahead of the crucial Gujarat elections, the Congress party has been actively seeking out powerful leaders of different caste communities. A prominent OBC strongman Alpesh Thakor of the BJP has defected to the Congress party, even as talks with the Patidar leader Hardik Patel are underway. Its complex caste formulations have given some hope to the beleaguered Congress party in Gujarat, which has been under the BJP rule for almost two decades.

Can Congress use caste to challenge BJP’s ‘Hindutva-Vikas’ in Gujarat elections?

I’d like to pose the question in a slightly different way. The big question in Gujarat today is can BJP’s Hindutva agenda, masked with the ‘vikas’ farce, overpower burning issues?

Gujarat has been the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva lab for several decades now. The ugly face of Hindutva that you see in UP has been developed in the Gujarat lab. As Karl Marx once said, religion “is the opium of the people”, and Hindutva works in a similar way; it makes you forget the real pain. What Gujarat is facing today can be called ‘withdrawal symptoms’ after the addiction.

In the last two assembly elections in Gujarat, the Modi-led BJP accused the UPA government at the Centre of being anti-Gujarat. With Modi being India’s Prime Minister for three and a half years, the BJP has nobody to accuse for the glaring failures of the state, especially the fall in its human development index and employment, and the rising caste violence and prices. Modi blaming the Congress for all the problems is not resonating with the people, especially because everyone knows that the Congress has been out of power in the state for over 22 years.

Here are other sharp perspectives in the same Talk Point by:
Anshuman Kumar, Associate Editor, ThePrint
Sheela Bhatt, National Affairs Editor, NewsX
Harsh Sanghavi, BJP MLA, Gujarat
Ruhi Tewari, Associate Editor, ThePrint

Despite the ‘Make in India’ campaign, India Inc’s investment growth has hit a 25-year low. Economic policy blunders like demonetisation and GST have hit the trader community hard. It was claimed that lakhs of crores of rupees would come into the state through MoUs signed under the Vibrant Gujarat umbrella. People are asking where has all that money vanished?

The major caste groups siding with the Congress is not the party’s success, as much as it is the BJP’s all-round failure to deliver. The government’s epic mishandling of the Una incident and the Patidar movement has resulted in major communities turning against the ruling BJP.

The tide has quietly turned, and the Gujarat elections are all set to throw up major surprises. The way ‘vikas gando thayo che’ (development has gone mad) slogan went viral speaks volumes about the mood of the state.

Pravin Mishra is the Director, Crafting Creative Communication (CCC) and associate professor, MICA School of Ideas.

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