Elections 2017: BJP plays the 'Modi-vs-Rahul' card, Congress attacks governance
The Election Commission (EC) has sounded the bugle for polls in Himachal (November 9) and Gujarat (before December 18). Though AAP is entering Gujarat, Modi's home state, but like Himachal, it will probably be a Congress versus BJP showdown. What will the Congress' and BJP's strategies be in the respective states? What do these elections imply for them? Are these strategies workable? Read on!
In Gujarat, the BJP might face anti-incumbency as it has ruled for 22 years. So, instead of the 'Gujarat developmental model', which lacked a credible mass leader to take it forward, BJP's election strategy will focus on the Modi-versus-Rahul Gandhi contest. It is evident by BJP president Amit Shah and cabinet minister Smriti Irani's rhetoric in Amethi, calling Rahul "Shehzada" who views India with "Italian glasses."
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi is criticizing BJP for lack of employment opportunities, economic slowdown, demonetization and GST's adverse effects on farmers and traders in Gujarat. Congress is happy that Rahul is drawing crowds and cheers in Gujarat. Along with that, the party's performance in the 2015 district panchayat polls has made Congress nurse hopes of coming to power in Modi's home state.
Congress has no mass leader in Gujarat. Earlier this year, it experienced in-fighting between senior leader Shankersinh Vaghela and state chief Bharatsinh Solanki, leading to the former leaving Congress. Meanwhile, BJP is struggling to project a credible CM candidate even as former CM Anandiben Patel announced that she won't contest elections. Further, BJP faces dissatisfaction of Patidars and traders over its economic policies.
In Himachal, Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government faces anti-incumbency with the CM facing corruption allegations. Serious crimes like a teenager's rape and murder in Shimla raised questions on the law-and-order situation. However, Congress's strategy focuses on benefiting from Centre's anti-incumbency by attacking its economic policies. Moreover, Congress is entirely dependent on Virbhadra's mass appeal to win; but, he harbors disagreements with state chief Sukhvinder Sukhu.
In Himachal, BJP faces infighting and to avoid fracturing of votes and camps, it has not announced a CM candidate yet. Though BJP has tried to portray unity between former CMs Prem Kumar Dhumal, Shanta Kumar and cabinet minister JP Nadda, cracks run deep as all vie for the CM post. So far, BJP has been attacking Congress about Virbhadra's corruption allegations and governance deficit.
Since 1985, BJP-Congress have won majority in the Himachal Assembly alternatively. This year's trajectory might be similar. In Gujarat, though Congress won 24 of 31 seats in district panchayats and 113 of 193 in taluka panchayats, BJP retained all six municipalities in 2015. In 2017, BJP had won five of seven municipalities. Congress has failed to narrow the vote-share gap of 8-10% since two decades.
In Himachal, Modi-Shah duo might want to win desperately to inch towards a Congress-mukt Bharat, as Himachal is one of the five states where Congress has a government. Gujarat is certainly a prestige battle for BJP. A loss will have national repercussions as BJP might have to rethink its economic consolidation path to shift to populist policies for 2019 LS elections.