Ahamedabad, December 17 : An estimated 68-69 per cent of 1.98 crore electors cast their votes in the second and final phase of Gujarat polls on Monday and most of the post poll surveys have predicted BJP would cross the tally of 120 seats this time.
"An estimated 68 to 69 per cent voters exercised their franchise in the second phase of polling," a source in the state election office revealed. Like the first phase on December 13 when a record 70.75 per cent voters exercised their franchise, the final phase of balloting in 95 of state's 182 seats too saw a huge voter turnout to decide the electoral fate of 822 candidates including Modi and Shankar Singh Vaghela, a former chief minister.
The higher turnout of 68 percent in the first phase of polling in Gujarat seems to have surprised many people, especially political observers. What does this mean for the fortunes of the BJP and the Congress? The Congress camp, the dominant feeling was that with low polling, and with no emotive issues to bring out the hardcore BJP voter, the core anti-incumbency vote will do the trick. Congress sources believed that a “lower voter turnout will benefit the Congress and a higher voter turnout the BJP”. Congress was also banking heavily on GPP to play the ‘game changer’ whose strength seems to be over estimated by the media, Dayanand Nene an independent observer of Gujarat elections told NewsBharati.
Today’s higher voting has made it clear that BJP may sweep the Suthern Gujarat, while in Saurashtra it can expect around 47% votes and in Mid Gujarat it can expect its votes to cross 50% mark.
In Gujarat election generally the question that is asked is, “Which way will the Patidars swing?” This vote is important. Every time Saurashtra votes, political parties go all out to woo Patels, mostly Leuvas. Patidars are a conglomeration of various sub-castes of Patels, comprise about 20% of the state’s population and have consistently held 20% to 26% of seats in the Gujarat assembly from 1960 onwards. No other social group has held a higher share of seats during this period. Their share of the seats increased from 19.6% to 26% in 1972. BJP’s rise in Gujarat is largely attributed to Patel’s — the community stood by the party in retaliation to former Congress CM Madhavsinh Solanki’s KHAM theory, which created a political axis of Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasis and Muslims. A total of 191 Patels are contesting from the three main parties, the BJP, Congress and Gurajarat Parivartan Party (GPP), not counting those contesting from other fringe players like the BSP, SP, JD(U), NCP and others. The statistics suggest that around 60 MLAs in last elections won by a margin of 5000 or less. So if Keshubai’s party is able to make that much of a dent, his job to make Modi perspire, is done.
The ‘teli raja’ or the oil lobby of Saurashtra, largely dominated by Patels, has acted as pressure points on state governments. If they swing Keshubhai’s way, it may result in losses for the BJP. If they don’t, the BJP may sweep the region. The Congress now says the high turnout means Patels and Muslims must have turned out in large numbers to oust Modi. However, this does not seem to be the reality. There was a perceptible lack of voter anger against Modi, despite some disgruntlement over local grievances. Not all Patels are Leuva Patels, and not all Leuva Patels are anti-Modi. Infact some of the surveys have shown that more than 50% Patel votes are in favour of Modi.
The aspiring younger generation among Patels identifies more with Modi than with Keshubai. And it is this young generation – between 21 to 35 that will play the real ‘game changer’.
After the first phase it was clear that the BJP can win 25 seats, the Congress 10 seats and the GPP 2 seats in Saurashtra. Today with the second phase voting being around 69%, it can be comfortably predicted that BJP would win more than 120 seats in this assembly elections by improving on its 2007 tally of 117.
The seats where last time’s win margin was around 5000 votes and constituences affected by demarcation are the two factors that are needed to be watched closely, as they may affect the actual results.