With the Election Commission all set to announce the dates for the Gujarat Assembly election, an opinion poll conducted by India Today-Axis My India revealed that despite everything going against it, the Bharatiya Janata Party will retain its bastion in the state. According to the opinion poll, the saffron party will comfortably win in both poll-bound states — Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat — with the Congress and other parties trailing the BJP by at least 10 percent of the vote.
The poll conducted between 15 September to 15 October in all 182 constituencies of Gujarat predicts that the BJP is "projected to win" at least 115-125 seats. Congress, the principal opposition in the western state, is projected to bag between 57-65 seats. According to the survey, BJP could wrest Himachal Pradesh from the Congress by winning 43-47 seats, while Congress may trail with 21-25 seats in the 68-seat Assembly. Elections in Himachal Pradesh will be held on 8 November, and the dates for Gujarat elections will be announced on Wednesday.
The term of the Gujarat Assembly ends on 22 January, 2018 and the poll panel was widely criticised for not announcing the dates earlier amid expectations that the prime minister is set to announce a volley sops for the election-bound state.
According to the survey, the BJP tally could be better than the 2012 results, as the party had won 115 seats with Narendra Modi as the chief minister. Congress had won 61 seats in the 182-member House. Axis My India sampled 18,243 respondents — 48 percent said that they would vote for the BJP, while 38 percent said that they would vote for the Congress. "A 10 percent gap in vote share in a bipolar race is enough to ensure that BJP is able to overcome all the anti-incumbency that has been building against the party during its reign in power," the survey further noted.
The Hardik factor
Based on latest development, Patidar leader Hardik Patel seems to be a key player in the upcoming polls, but not according to the survey. Two percent of the total respondents said they would back the party that had the support of Patel. In a 'scenario two projection', the survey asked the respondents what might happen if Patel were to officially declare his support for the Congress.
"According to the pollsters at Axis My India, if Hardik openly supports the Congress, the party's vote share can climb from 38 percent to 40 percent. This could lead to a gain of about five to 10 seats for the Congress and a commensurate loss in seat share for the BJP."
On Monday, allegations by two aides of Patel that the BJP bribed them to join the party ruffled many feathers and dominated most news channels. Nikhil Savani, a Patidar leader and former aide of Patel, quit the BJP in Gujarat saying he was "dismayed" by news of the saffron party offering money to Opposition leaders.
Savani, along with two other Patidar leaders, had joined BJP just two days ago. He said that he is likely to return to Patel's side after quitting the party. His comments came just hours after another Patidar leader Narendra Patel had held a press conference, where he displayed wads of notes which were allegedly offered to him by BJP.
Savani said he was "pained and upset" by these claims. "I joined BJP because the government had done good things in the past. But the party is now offering money to people to join them. I am upset by these revelations," Savani said on Monday.
Even though Patel joining Congress, "might" dent the BJP's chances, the survey asserts "it is not enough to upset the ruling party's applecart in this election — which is being seen as a mega prestige battle for the mighty Modi-Shah combine." Also, the opinion poll was conducted before 15 October and events related to the Patidar leader transpired after the survey was completed, the report added.
Patel, meanwhile, has put forward a set of demands before the Congress, including an assurance about reservation for the Patidars in government jobs and educational institutions, as a condition for supporting the party in the elections. Sources in the Congress party said Patel sought a maximum number of tickets for Patidar candidates in constituencies where the community has a large presence.
The GST scare
The survey, however, noted that one thing that could stop the saffron party's victory march in it tracks is the backlash faced by the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Dominated majorly by small-time traders, Gujarat is miffed with the new taxation policy. More than half the respondents said that they were dissatisfied with the GST, the survey has found. "Only 38 percent approved of the GST. It is very clear from the poll numbers that there is anger with the way GST has been implemented, but what is not clear is whether anger over GST will impact voter behaviour."
In fact, the anti-GST sentiments in the state is one of the issues that the Congress is using to its favour. On Monday, while visiting Ahmedabad, Rahul described it as the "Gabbar Singh Tax" and called for changes in the new tax regime to make it simple.
Stating that the GST in its present form was not what the Congress party had conceived, Rahul said the Narendra Modi dispensation went ahead with it despite his party warning the government about the adverse impact.
The Congress leader attacked Modi over the sudden demonetisation of high-value currency in November last year, saying the decision ruined the country's economy. "Their GST is not GST. GST means Gabbar Singh Tax. This is causing a loss to the country. Small shopkeepers are finished. Lakhs of youths have been unemployed. But they are still not ready to listen," Rahul said.
Several opposition parties on Tuesday announced that they would observe 8 November, the first anniversary of demonetisation, as 'Black Day' and would hold protests across the country to highlight its "ill-effects" on the economy.
Announcing the decision at a joint press conference of the opposition coordination committee, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said, "This particular announcement made on November 8 is the scam of the century, which is why we are observing this as Black Day."
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Nov 24, 2017 16:44 PM