Brand Modi towers above all else puts BJP on course to record tally in Gujarat

AHMEDABAD: The enduring sway Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on the Gujarati consciousness has put the BJP on the path to possibly achieving the best-ever tally for any party in the state assembly polls, reducing to insignificance people’s perceived discontent with issues like inflation and local leadership.

In his barnstorming campaign across the state in which he addressed 31 rallies and led three road shows, Modi travelled through various regions of his home state, urging voters to make “Bhupendra break the records of Narendra”, an exhortation for a higher tally for the Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel-led government than what he had got while helming the state for nearly 13 years.

And it is evident that voters have listened to him.

BJP could surpass its previous best showing of 127 seats in 2002 when Modi was the chief minister.

The Election Commission’s data has put the BJP’s vote share well over 50 per cent in the first half of the counting itself, a historic first for the party, and this was helped by a split in the opposition’s votes due to the emergence of the Aap Aadmi Party indicates that the party may break the record of 149 seats won by the Congress under Madhavsinh Solanki in 1985.

For those travelling through the western state, it was clear that voters may have certain issues with the BJP, in power in the state since 1998, regarding its local leadership and certain aspects of its administration but, for most, it did not count before the party’s larger governance architecture, ideological thrust and, above all, their faith in Modi.

“PM Modi has emerged as a rare leader whose popularity is unaffected by factors like anti-incumbency or the long duration of stay in power. In fact, his popularity has risen with time. He was a ‘jan-jan ke neta’ (a leader of masses) and is now ‘jan-man ke neta’ (a leader of masses and their hearts),” Shiwanand Dwivedi, who has written and edited four books on the BJP and its leaders, said.

People may have issues with the BJP, its MLAs and its governments but their trust in Modi overrides everything else, added Dwivedi, who is associated with BJP-linked think tank Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.

While Modi’s campaign extensively covered all four regions of the state, there was a special thrust on tribal regions and parts of Saurashtra where the BJP had suffered a drop in tally in 2017 for a variety of issues, including the Patidar agitation. His road shows traversed though most constituencies in cities like Surat, Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.

And as the trends show that the BJP’s sweep appears total, the nearest opposition Congress with leads in less than 20 seats appeared set to slump to its worst-ever performance.

Victory in Gujarat will make the BJP the only party other than the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to have won seven straight Assembly elections. The CPI(M), which ruled West Bengal for 34 years from 1977 to 2011, had also won seven straight elections.

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