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    Cut In Minority Votes, Lacklustre Campaign: Key Factors Behind Congress' Worst-Ever Show In Gujarat

    Gujarat Poll Results: Congress party's vote share declined from 42 per cent to 27 per cent, as a good chunk of its voters appeared to have switched to AAP, which secured 13 per cent of the votes counted.

    By Talibuddin Khan
    Fri, 09 Dec 2022 11:23 AM (IST)
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    THE BJP on Thursday registered a thumping win in the Gujarat Assembly election 2022 amassing all previous records. The BJP garnered 156 seats of the total 182 Assembly constituencies in Gujarat surpassing the Congress' 37-year-old record to win a 149-seat majority in the 1985 Gujarat Assembly elections. The Aam Aadmi Party on the other hand also debuted in Gujarat by winning 5 seats.

    With BJP's massive gains and AAP's entry in Gujarat, the Congress party recorded its worst performance ever in Gujarat. Though Congress remained the second largest party with 17 seats, its vote share fell sharply as compared to the previous Assembly election in the state. Congress party's vote share declined from 42 per cent to 27 per cent, as a good chunk of its voters appeared to have switched to AAP, which secured 13 per cent of the votes counted.

    Reasons behind Congress' poor performance in Gujarat:

    Distribution of minority votes between AIMIM, AAP

    The dismal performance of Congress in the Gujarat polls can be attributed to the distribution of minority votes between the AAP and AIMIM, bringing down the main Opposition party's vote margin considerably in various seats across the state. The minorities, primarily Muslims, have been loyal voters of the Congress for the last several decades, especially after the 2002 post-Godhra riots.

    The Congress has been the prominent choice of minority voters, especially Muslims, given the electoral calculations of the BJP keeping in mind the consolidation of Hindu votes irrespective of castes. The BJP's approach prompted Congress to secure a large chunk of minority votes for some decades now.

    However, the entry of the AAP and the Asaduddin Owais-led AIMIM has not only disturbed Congress' minority vote bank but has also helped the ruling BJP, which did not field a single Muslim candidate in the elections, at the cost of the Congress. In contrast with the BJP, the Congress fielded six Muslim candidates while AAP gave tickets to three members of the minority community in the 2022 Assembly Polls. The AIMIM contested 13 Assembly seats and fielded Muslim nominees on 12 of them.

    The AIMIM might have failed to win a single seat and the AAP might have won just five, but they derailed the Congress's prospects and vote share in numerous seats by splitting their traditional votes. Political analysts feel that the voting pattern in Muslim-dominated seats shows minorities have shifted loyalties as the Congress has failed to emerge as an alternative to the BJP. The poll results reflect voters yearning for an alternative have found the AAP as a replacement for Congress.

    Lacklustre campaigning

    Apart from the distribution of votes, one of the major reasons for the Congress' drubbing was its lacklustre poll campaigning in the coastal state. Despite the grand old party's stupendous performance in the 2017 polls when it won 77 seats, the Congress party this time seemed more engaged in its Bharat Jodo Yatra instead of focusing on Gujarat.

    Despite the elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, the schedule of Congress' mega marathon march led by Rahul Gandhi skipped the two states. All prominent leaders of the party were seen joining Rahul Gandhi in the Bharat Jodo Yatra instead of wooing the voters in Gujarat. Only a handful of Congress leaders including party chief Mallikarjun Kharge were seen holding 'Jan Sabhas' and public rallies in Gujarat. Even Rahul Gandhi addressed only one public meeting in Surat, whereas the AAP and BJP threw all they have to lure the voters.

    Bigwigs of the BJP including Prime Minister Modi, UP CM Yogi Adityanath, party chief JP Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, were seen wooing the voters and after Thursday's results, it seems that the aggressive campaigns really worked for the saffron brigade.

    The Patidar switch

    Another major reason for the Congress' poor show in Gujarat was the switch of the Patidar voters to the BJP. The Patidar community, a section of which had voted against the BJP in 2017 Assembly polls held in the backdrop of the quota agitation in Gujarat, returned to the ruling outfit in the 2022 elections, helping it win most of the seats dominated by the influential social group.

    The BJP has done extremely well in the Patidar-dominated constituencies of the state, winning almost every seat that has significant Patel population. In the Saurashtra region, the Congress had won Patidar-dominated seats of Morbi, Tankara, Dhoraji and Amreli, among others in 2017. However, all these Assembly segments this time went in the BJP's kitty.

    In Patidar-dominated Surat, where the AAP was banking on the community to bag a few seats, the social group by and large backed the ruling party. The saffron outfit won Patidar seats in Varachha Road, Katargam and Olpad with huge margins. In North Gujarat, the Congress had won a Patidar-dominated Unjha seat five years ago, but this time it was wrested by the BJP.

    The BJP, ahead of the 2022 elections, reached out to the Patel community. The party replaced its Chief Minister Vijay Rupani with incumbent Bhupendra Patel in September 2021. The ruling outfit brought in Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel to its fold from the Congress and fielded him from the Viramgam Assembly seat from where he won by a handsome margin.

    Loss in the Saurashtra region

    A region-wise analysis of the Gujarat assembly results shows that the ruling BJP swept Saurashtra, winning 40 of 48 seats, regaining its hold over a region where the Congress held sway in 2017 polls, bagging as many as 28 seats. The Congress party managed to win just 3 seats, a far cry from the 28 seats it won in the 2017 elections.

    The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), in its maiden Gujarat assembly elections, managed to bag 4 seats, one seat more than the Congress' tally in the region. Samajwadi Party candidate Kandhal Jadeja won from Kutiyana. BJP polled 48.23 per cent votes in Saurashtra, Congress got 26 per cent and AAP secured 20 per cent.

    In the 2017 elections, Congress won 28 seats, while BJP bagged 19 seats and NCP got one seat. The Congress secured more vote percentage than BJP in the 2017 elections at 45.37 per cent, while BJP then bagged 44.90 per cent of votes. The region with a sizeable Patidar and Other Backward Class (OBC) population helped Congress limit the BJP to 99 seats in 2017 polls, the saffron party's worst performance since 2002.

     

    (With Agencies Inputs)

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