Mellowed down Modi has still no clear challenge

Mellowed down Modi has still no clear challenge

If Modi’s lead is narrow, the Congress backed by Keshubhai’s GPP may have a say in power sharing.


As Gujarat goes to the polls on December 13 and 17, the nation watches for two reasons. One, Gujarat is the Hindutva experiment of BJP. Second, Modi wants to capture power at the Centre and this is the semifinal for him.

The Hindutva experiment began in 1992 with Advani’s rathyatra from Somnath to Ayodhya. This gave fillip to BJP-Hindutva wave in Gujarat. BJP came to power with Keshubhai as chief minister. This was a qualitative shift in Gujarat society. Erstwhile Gujarat society, and Gujaratis were known as ‘Shantibhai’ or peace loving people. The aristocrat class of Gujarat held values known as ‘mahajan’, which promoted business interests of Gujaratis. But the neo-rich class that came to urban areas from rural-agricultural background, after green revolution, did not hold the ‘mahajan’ values.
Anthropological wisdom says that agriculture can afford violence, because the crop will grow, even when heads are being chopped off. But business will not grow when people are being killed. So the neo-rich class had no issue with violence. It also wanted a new identity. It is this class that became the base for the Hindutva experiment. Most of those imprisoned after post-Godhra riots, are from this class. Keshubhai Patel is a representative of this class.

But the erstwhile agrarian class or the Patel caste in popular parlance, form only 13 per cent of Gujarat society. The Hindutva experiment needed to percolate further. So they removed Keshubhai and brought Modi, who represents OBC class that forms 39 per cent of the State’s population. Modi won the 2002 elections on Hindutva grounds. But then he realised that  ‘development’ works better than violent Hindutva model. By this time, 50 per cent of Gujarat society had become urban, non-agrarian society. Class also became important along with caste. We call it class-caste nexus or clast. Modi, a sharp strategist, took advantage of the situation and left Patels in the lurch and gave fillip to urban, neo-rich, non-agrarian young and upfront class. He launched several programmes for this class. This displeased Patels, Keshubhai, old RSS stalvarts, VHP, Kisan Sangh and BMS. Rise of Keshubhai's party (Gujarat Parivartan Party) has it’s roots here. Modi also launched the ‘sad bhavana’ campaign to woo Muslims and wanted to give tickets to some as a gesture. But  RSS came in the way. Modi had to compromise and come back to ‘soft’ Hindutva.

Delimitation impact

The delimitation has also influenced Gujarat poll prospects. More urbanisation, more concentration of population in certain pockets and migration of people from other states along with delimitation has led to 40 old constituencies, mostly rural, being abolished.
Forty new constituencies, mostly urban, have come into existence. Sixty-eight constituencies have been redrawn. The social fabric of these constituencies has changed.
Modi wanted to take advantage of this delimitation by giving more tickets to young and urban upfront candidates. He also wanted to give tickets to some Muslims. But then the old guards of BJP took objection and Modi had to compromise. Had he not done this, a large chunk of BJP would have revolted and joined Keshubhai’s outfit. So, this is a mellowed down Modi. He is not as powerful as he was in 2002 and 2007 elections.

In this Hindutva paradigm, Congress has become weak organisationally. It does not have a leader to match Modi. Vaghela is good, but his basic culture is RSS, as he has crossed over from BJP. Congress does not have shrewd strategists to take benefit of delimitation.

Under such circumstances, there are two Hindutva camps: BJP and GPP. Both supported by RSS and GPP by VHP as well. On the other hand, the secular forces under Congress umbrella are weak. No undercurrent is visible. No clear anti-incumbency is visible. If the trend remains the same, Modi may get around 95-97 seats. Congress may get 80 seats. GPP of Keshubhai may get six to seven seats. In any case, Modi’s hegemony is challenged and he has become weak. If the victory margin is very narrow, the Congress supported by GPP may have some say in power sharing in Gujarat.

(The writer is Emeritus Professor, Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad.)

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