The next assembly elections in Gujarat may be more than six months away, but the ruling BJP and the main challenger, the Congress party, are both already actively canvassing the electorate with their yatras and campaigns. The recent upset win that the Congress was able to score in the Mansa assembly by-election has boosted the party’s morale and made it hopeful of improving its performance considerably over the last time and giving a real fight to the BJP chief minister, Narendra Modi.
However, an intensive survey of the Gujarat electorate undertaken by LensOnNews finds that, if the elections were held now, Narendra Modi will romp home for an unprecedented third term, with a two-thirds majority possibly larger than the 127 seats he had won ten years ago in 2002.
According to the LensOnNews poll, the BJP is likely to poll 50 per cent of the total votes (a gain of 1 percentage point over its vote share in 2007), while the Congress is likely to get a vote share of 37 per cent (a loss of 1 per cent). Thus the gap in the vote shares of the two parties is likely to widen from 11 to 13 per cent.
The BJP is likely to win a historically high tally of between 127 and 138 seats (compared to 117 in 2007) in the 182-seat assembly, while the Congress tally is likely to drop to between 36 and 46 (as against 59 seats the last time).
Many have conjectured that it was the polarization following the post-Godhra riots that helped Modi win a two-thirds majority in the 2002 polls. Be that as it may, the record of ten riot-free years since then has certainly contributed to the even stronger position of Narendra Modi today.
Clearly, however, it is the all-round performance of the state government and the feel-good factor that it has created among the people that is likely to prove decisive. The LensOnNews poll finds a very high level of satisfaction with the government’s performance in all fronts: sixty-nine per cent of those polled say they are satisfied with the pace of rural development; 79 per cent with the progress in industrialization; and 75 per cent with job creation.
Our survey finds that the people in Gujarat are as much concerned about the issues of corruption and galloping inflation as the people elsewhere in India. However, they blame the Central government squarely for these problems. Sixty-one per cent hold the Centre to blame for both corruption and price rise, while a much smaller number (22 and 24 per cent respectively) lay the blame on the state government for these maladies.
There are several other factors that seem to be working in favour of Narendra Modi this time. For one, the Congress party has not been able to latch on to any issue that finds resonance with the people. The cotton export ban had caused considerable disquiet among the farmers in Saurashtra and elsewhere across the state, and though the state Congress leaders tried to take credit for prevailing upon the Centre to eventually lift the ban, the ban itself and Narendra Modi’s attacking the policy meant that it was an overall negative for the Congress.
Further, the attempts to implicate Narendra Modi in a host of riot cases, and the international campaign to ostrasize him which resulted in the denial of a US visa to him, are now unraveling; and Modi’s regular invoking of Gujarati asmita (hurt Gujarati pride) never fails to resonate with his people.
While there is no state-level anti-incumbency against the Modi government, there is likely to be a localized anti-incumbency sentiment against non-performing MLAs. However, the delimitation and rotation of reserved constituencies will unsettle about a third of the incumbents in the normal course, considerably blunting this factor. Delimitation has also increased the weight of the urban vote, thus playing to the strength of the BJP.
Finally, and most decisively, it is the Congress party’s failure to come up with any leader having credibility among the people that is rendering it unable to put up any kind of real challenge to Modi.
Thus it is no surprise that the LensOnNews poll finds that 61 per cent of the respondents say that is the BJP that can provide a better government in Gujarat, as against only 32 per cent rooting for the Congress. Again, when asked whether they would like a change of government or the present government to be returned to power, as many as 61 per cent want the Modi government to be re-elected.
And, asked who they would like as their next chief minister, 65 per cent plump for Narendra Modi and only 20 per cent name the Congressman, Shankersinh Vaghela, a former chief minister and Union textiles minister who had failed to retain his seat in the 2009 Lok Sabha election.
The LensOnNews survey was carried out between April 25 and May 7 among a representative sample of 5890 voters spread across 32 assembly constituencies. The results are subject to a margin of error of 3 per cent.