Gujarat Assembly Election Results: BJP's 22 straight years in power a result of strong grassroots network
Why does the BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah continue to win election after election?
In the final tally, it is a difference of only 19 seats that made BJP the sixth-time winner in Gujarat, keeping Congress and its allies at the number two spot, even though they came painfully close to surprising everybody.
But in the final analysis, the actual difference is the presence of BJP’s foot soldiers at the grassroots that the Congress could not defeat. Years from now, the public will remember that the BJP won the 2017 Assembly election in Gujarat to form the government for the sixth term consecutively, and the difference in numbers between the BJP and the Congress will be resigned to the footnotes of history.
After all Jo Jeeta Woh Sikandar! (The one who wins is King).
This historical feat of 22 straight years in power is bettered only by the CPM-led Left Front government in West Bengal which enjoyed 34 years in power – seven consecutive terms from 1977 to 2011.
What then, is the common denominator between the BJP and the Left Front that ensured them victories term after term in two different corners of the country? Why does the BJP under Modi continue to win election after election?
The answer lies in the weeds. Or more specifically, in the grassroots network.
In the Gujarat election, Rahul Gandhi displayed aggressive campaigning skills and led from the front, unlike in the past. But the Congress lost, despite anti-incumbency and the Hardik Patel factor working in its favour. Why? Again, it was the grassroots network, or rather, the lack of one.
The grassroots factor
Unlike the Congress of today, the BJP has a strong and committed cadre at the grassroots – similar to that of the Left Front of old in West Bengal – which provides the party’s foot soldiers who ensure victory.
“BJP in Gujarat has a committed cadre of its own, besides the workers from the RSS and its affiliates, who have a strong reach at the ground level. They have firm roots and act as foot soldiers. Mobilisation is almost on auto-drive,” Gujarat-based Mukesh Shah, a political analyst and an academician told Firstpost.
“This gives the BJP an edge over the Congress, as the latter has lost its grassroots connectivity. Seva Dal, the front organisation of the Congress that once worked at grassroots level for the party has almost been non-existent in Gujarat for over 40 years,” added Shah, also editor of Sadhana Saptahik, a Gujarati weekly.
The electoral victories of BJP are attributed to Modi and party president Amit Shah, both of who are exceptional at cadre management.
“Besides Prime Minister Modi’s charishma and his tenure as Gujarat CM, it’s the party cadre and micro management of Amit Shah that ensured BJP’s victory in Gujarat election for the sixth time in a row,” pointed out Delhi BJP spokesperson, Harish Khurana.
The party workers who had been an integral part of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections told Firstpost that Shah chalked out a fool-proof blue-print for electioneering — from planning at the top to booth level management. “The party workers are given specific tasks and responsibilities at multiple levels. There is a strong focus on connecting with the voters at the grassroots level and mobilising them up to the respective booths,” a BJP worker from Rajkot said.
Manoj Mehlawat, corporator of Vasant Kunj in New Delhi added, “I’m a ground level worker. Our party president experiments with new faces, with winnability factor and we witnessed it during the MCD polls. In BJP, every worker at the bottom knows that he or she can rise to higher levels without having any political background or dynastic connections. This is a driving force for us.”
Mobilisation of voters has been another key strength of the BJP, which again depends on a strong cadre at the ground level. Besides its traditional pockets, the BJP and RSS-affiliated cadre also penetrated into Muslim dominated seats in Gujarat, breaking the myth that Muslims never vote for the BJP.
“The Gujarat Muslims have broken the myth of not voting for the BJP. There are 22 Muslim dominated seats in Gujarat, with 55% Muslim voters. Without their contribution, the BJP couldn’t have won the election. The dent that Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakore together caused to the BJP, was compensated by Muslim votes. The BJP cadre working at the grassroots penetrated these pockets and undertook the task of distribution of voting slips to booth level mobilisation,” said political analyst and chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Zafar Sareshwala.
Hafiz Mohd Sabreen, spokesperson, Delhi BJP’s minority cell added, “Even elsewhere, like in Muslim dominated state of Uttar Pradesh, they voted for Prime Minister Modi’s development agenda, otherwise getting a majority both in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections wouldn’t have been possible. Now, Muslims are gradually realising the ulterior motive of other parties, who resorted to an appeasement policy unlike the BJP. Modiji’s Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas is for the development of 125 crore Indians, irrespective of religion and caste.”
Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said the allegations made by the Opposition party were bereft of political propriety and a new low in political discourse
The 78-year-old Yediyurappa belongs to the older generation of politicians who started their service to the public as a teenager (in his case with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and did not hail from either a political or an affluent family