If there is any city that is seen to represent the public anger over demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax, it is Surat. Textile traders had shut shop for a fortnight, the diamond market was losing its shine and there was a mood of despondency in Gujarat’s business capital. And yet, the election results show that the BJP has swept all 12 seats in the port city, including the Patel-dominated Varacha Road constituency. In the electoral trajectory of Surat lies perhaps the key to the BJP’s sixth consecutive win in Gujarat.
It may be coincidental, but it is perhaps only appropriate that the Gujarat elections are being held in the week of the 25th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition. The BJP, after all, hasn’t lost a single election in Gujarat over this period and the rath yatra, which led to the Babri Masjid’s destruction, rolled out from the state.
In the winter of 1994 when I first moved to Delhi from Mumbai, the chance to cover Parliament was a major attraction. Entering Central Hall and gazing at the portraits of our founding fathers was motivating. Listening to speakers like George Fernandes, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Somnath Chatterjee enthused me. This was, after all, the crucible of Indian democracy. Almost a quarter of a century later, I am pained to report that every romantic illusion one had woven around Parliament has been dashed.
As the seasons change, there is a spring in the step of the Congress which suggests that a long and harsh summer in the political wilderness maybe ending. Rahul Gandhi is finally set to take over the party leadership, there is a buzz around the Congress’ aggressive social media strategy, new anti-BJP alliances are being cemented in poll-bound Gujarat, demonetisation and GST have become useful weapons to attack the government and open rebellion by senior BJP leaders like Yashwant Sinha has given further ammunition to the Opposition.
Predicting elections can be injurious to the health of journalists and pollsters, more so when there is still a month to go before voting. Even so, there is a near unanimity that Narendra Modi is poised for a hat-trick of victories in Gujarat. The CNN IBN-The Week-CSDS poll done a fortnight ago, in fact, puts him as much as 14 points ahead, which if translated into seats should give Modi a comprehensive two-thirds majority triumph. The Modi groupies will no doubt attribute a victory solely to the charisma and achievements of the Gujarat chief minister.