By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2022-11-21 14:12:36
On a campaign tour of that part of Gujarat that had voted overwhelmingly for the Congress in 2017 (BJP lost all four seats in Gir Somnath where the famous Somnath temple is located and five seats in neighbouring Amreli district, all to the Congress), Prime Minister Modi, with saffron smeared on his forehead after a visit to the Somnath temple, appealed to voters in Verval in Gir Somnath to vote in large numbers and ensure that each of the four seats went to the BJP this time. In Amreli district, he went further and asked voters not to waste their votes by voting for the Congress, something that Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP do regularly to influence the voters into thinking that AAP is the real opponent of the BJP this time.
Hence, despite being at loggerheads otherwise, both the BJP and the AAP have one thing in common - they have made it their mission to influence voters not to vote for the Congress in the ensuing elections. The AAP has been doing it since the beginning of its campaign as it wanted to smash the BJP-Congress's duopolistic hold over Gujarat's electorate and it knew that as the newbie, it would have to attack the Congress as it is perceived to be the weaker party despite BJP facing anti-incumbency. Hence, Kejriwal has been going all guns blazing at the Congress to prove that it was the AAP and not the GoP which was a better alternative. Prime Minister Modi joined him in this regard on Sunday.
But do opinion polls reflect this? Are voters convinced either by the AAP or the BJP to junk the Congress? Not really. Although almost all opinion polls have shown that Congress will lose both vote share and seats and the AAP will gain vote share but it will not gain seats, with projections showing not more than 2 to 3 seats for the party. This means that despite AAP's in-your-face campaign, Congress still remains the BJP's principal opponent in the state and all that AAP will succeed in doing is divide the opposition vote and help the BJP. But AAP knows that it is not going to get much dividend this time and is really playing to establish itself as a serious contender in 2027. The Congress, meanwhile, facing internal strife and desertions and conducting a surprisingly low-key campaign, will hope to retain its old seats and prevent the AAP and the BJP from making inroads in its pockets of influence. In all this, the BJP is most likely to significantly better its dismal showing in 2017 when it won just 99 seats in the face of a spirited campaign by the Congress.