Image Credit: www.indianexpress.com
Anandiben finally resigned from the post of chief minister of Gujarat ending months of speculation. In a column in May 16 in The Quint we had highlighted the challenges BJP could face in the state polls scheduled next year. Anandiben posted her resignation on Facebook. The technique she used was novel and first of its kind. Amit Shah who has prescribed that each MP / MLA of party should have active presence on social media certainly didn’t recommend this!
Why did Anadiben resign?
Anandiben Patel was a surprise choice for Gujarat CM post after Modi became PM. Many argue that this was primarily done to keep control in hands of the duo, a Congressization of sorts.
Anandiben’s troubles started soon with the Patidar agitation demanding reservation in jobs. The agitation is said to have been fueled by her rivals inside and outside the party. She was unable to handle the issue properly leading to loss in rural Gujarat in panchayat and municipal polls. Hardik Patel’s arrest and subsequent release recently made him a hero threatening loss of BJP’s traditional vote bank. Rumours were also rife that Anadiben was getting close to Sanjay Joshi, Modi’s bete noire. Secondly, soon after the agitation began, allegations of nepotism surfaced against her daughter leading to some loss of personal image. The final nail in the coffin was the Dalit agitation and massive rally calling for BJP boycott following cow vigilante’s brutal beating of SC youth in the state.
Dalits (SC) comprise of only 7% of state population and have traditionally voted for Congress
Source: CSDS Reports
Dalits have been traditional Congress supporters despite the state being saffronized in the past 2 decades. BJP gets close to 2% vote share from this group. It has consistently recorded 45%+ vote share in the state. This is not significant from electoral point of view.
Why was this extreme step taken when Dalits are not a significant player in Gujarat politics?
There are two dimensions to the Dalit issue. Firstly, while Dalits (SC) do not have significant numbers in the state, every 10% loss in vote leads to nearly a 1% loss in share for the BJP. This can make a difference in closely contested urban and rural constituencies. Further, if the BJP were to lose all the 10 SC seats it won in 2012, the gap between the two parties which was 55 in 2012 could reduce to 34 seats. Given Muslims also have joined and supported the Dalit agitation and the BJP won 12 out of the 19 seats where Muslims are significant, a loss of 5-10 seats here could reduce the gap between the BJP and Congress from 55 to 20-25 with losses just in these two voting groups. BJP has received one out of every five muslim votes in the state in past few elections, its best on a pan India level. Finally, if the Patidars are not recovered by end of next year, the State could definitely move the Congress way with large number of rural seats moving to the grand old party. The idea behind replacing Anandiben would be to prevent losses amongst these key voting groups.
The second dimension is that Dalits account for 20% of population in the electorally important Uttar Pradesh and 30% in Punjab. Both these states go to polls in 2017. The BJP has been under constant pressure since January (Rohi Vemula issue) on the issue of Dalits. Dayashankar’s comment on Mayawati and cow vigilante alleged atrocities on Dalits is increasingly leading to creation of an impression that BJP is anti-Dalit. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP won 24% of the Dalit vote, the highest amongst all parties. BJP and its allies won more than half of the 84 reserved seats for Dalits.
The ratio was even higher for NDA where nearly one in every three Dalits voted for it. This was possible due to the deft alliances with Paswan’s LJP, Athawale’s RPI and induction of leaders like Udit Raj. Mayawati lost massive support as preferred PM amongst Dalits. The recent episodes have the potential of pushing BJP back to 3rd slot amongst Dalit voters.
Source: CSDS Reports
BJP also won about 45% of the non-Jatav votes in the Uttar Pradesh (+34% vis-à-vis 2012 state polls) and higher than BSP which bagged 29%. A national narrative emerging that BJP is anti-dalit could lead to severe losses across the States where BJP won handsomely in 2014. It could also lead to a defeat in the assembly elections for the most electorally significant of Uttar Pradesh. As per our assessment BJP could lose anywhere between 2%-3% vote share from Dalits which in a tight contest could prove to be the game changer in UP.
The Great Wall of Gujarat under Threat?
BJP has continuously ruled Gujarat for more than 18 years now. The current PM was the CM of Gujarat for more than 12 years. BJP owes its Lok Sabha 2014 success to a large extent to Gujarat model of governance. The Deputy Prime Minister under Vajpayee, Advani also belongs to Gujarat. The state is a stronghold of BJP. Any loss here could cause severe embarrassment to Modi and could signal that all is not well with the Modi model of Governance. Anandiben’s resignation is a clear hint that BJP is sensing strong competition in 2017.
It remains to be seen whether changing chief minister helps BJP in Gujarat. Modi is a once in a generation politician and any leader trying to fill his shoes will anyway struggle in Gujarat. That said, a favorable monsoon and some deft moves could still save Gujarat for the BJP. Time will tell…