The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress — the major political forces in Gujarat since the collapse of Janata Dal in 1990 — may find it difficult to retain their vote share this time with the entry of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
With a muted campaign from the Congress, as its top leader Rahul Gandhi is busy with the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, the BJP’s “Gujarat Model” faced a tough challenge from Arvind Kejriwal’s “Delhi Model”, which managed to sway people in Punjab. Following a pattern similar to what worked in Punjab, the AAP promised to revamp government schools, give free electricity, free water to farmers, and free healthcare if elected to power in Gujarat.
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Kejriwal’s party also promised a monthly allowance of Rs 1,000 to all women aged above age 18 if they are willing to accept such a grant and roll back the Old Pension Scheme, which has been restored in Punjab.
A look at AAP’s prospects and why the outcome would be different from its expectations.
THE GUJARAT NUMBERGAME
Elections for the BJP in Gujarat are nothing less than a cricket match where the host team has the advantage as PM Narendra Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014, had said “Aa Gujarat, mai bnavyu chhe” (I have made this Gujarat)”, a line which set the theme of party’s poll campaign.
The BJP is not just any political party in Gujarat, but it is a system that has remained in power since 1995, barring a one-and-half year hiatus when Shankersinh Vaghela broke away from the BJP with 47 MLAs and founded the Rashtriya Janata Party, which ran the government with the support of Congress.
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An analysis of the last six Assembly elections in Gujarat suggests that the BJP, which is on a winning streak since 1995, has managed to secure a vote share between 42.51% and 49.05%. The BJP recorded its best-ever performance in 2002 polls, winning 127 seats with a vote share of 49.85%.
On the other hand, despite being on the losing side for the past 27 years, the Congress managed to increase its vote share from 32.86% in 1995 to 41.44% in 2017, when Gandhi led a spirited campaign as the party president to secure 77 seats, the most number of seats it has won in the state since 1985.
WHY AAP’S ‘JHADU’ WON’T WORK
The AAP fielded 29 candidates in the 2017 polls, but all of them end up losing their deposits and the party got 0.10% vote share. However, in the 2021 civic body polls, the party secured over 13% vote share in its debut performance as the Congress’s share declined.
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The BJP and Congress managed to increase its vote share after several crucial leaders from the Janata Dal left the party after the 1990 polls. The Janata Dal had bagged 70 seats and secured 29.36% vote share in 1990, but it failed to open an account in the 1995 elections and could manage only 2.82% votes. AAP convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal claimed his party would win more than 92 seats, a prediction which seemed far from reality. For the AAP, which contested all 182 seats this time, it seems impossible to grab votes between 30% and 40%, which is a benchmark to win Gujarat. This is something the AAP had not been able to do even in Delhi as well as Punjab in its debut elections. The AAP secured 29.49% vote share in its first elections in Delhi in 2013 and 23.72% votes in Punjab in 2017. Another low probability event is the Congress and BJP lose significant vote share which may help AAP to increase vote share, but it would still not be enough to form a majority government.
EXIT POLLS TELL A SIMILAR STORY
All exit polls have claimed the BJP’s wave in Gujarat, some of them even predicted it to be bigger this time, with the Congress in the opposition. Pollsters have predicted the AAP will get between 2 and 21 seats. Republic TV-P MARQ survey predicted 2-10 seats for the AAP, while Axis My India numbers showed that the AAP could win 9-21 seats.
According to the News X-Jan Ki Baat exit poll, the BJP could get 117-140 seats in Gujarat, the Congress 34-51, and AAP 6-13. TV9 Gujarati predicted 125-130 seats for the BJP, 40-50 for the Congress, and 3-5 seats for AAP. The Times Now Navbharat ETG exit poll said the BJP may win 131 seats, the Congress 41, AAP 6, with others bagging 4 seats. Going by an ABP-CVoter survey, the BJP could end up with 128-140 seats, Congress 31-43, and AAP 3-11. According to News24-Today’s Chanakya, 150 seats would be won by the BJP, with the Congress getting 19, and AAP 11.
AAP’S ROAD TO SUCCESS IN DELHI, PUNJAB
As a new entrant, the AAP did remarkably well in Delhi in the 2013 Assembly polls, but failed to touch the majority figure. The Kejriwal-led party managed to eat into more votes of Congress than the BJP and won 28 seats and its vote share was 29.49%. The BJP, which emerged as the single largest party, bagged 31 seats and its vote share fell to 34.12% from 33.07% in 2008 polls. On the other hand, the Congress was decimated to 8 seats and its vote share dropped to 24.55% from 40.31% in 2008.
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In the 2015 polls, the AAP registered a landslide victory, winning 67 seats and secured 54.34% vote share, while the vote share of BJP (32.19%) and Congress (9.65%) shrunk further. The AAP repeated the performance in 2020 bagging 62 seats and garnering 53.57% vote share. While the BJP won 8 seats and increased its vote share to 38.51%, the Congress drew a blank and secured only 4.26%.
The AAP fielded 112 candidates in the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls and emerged as the second largest party after the Congress winning 20 seats. With Bhagwant Mann as the chief minister face in 2022, the AAP increased its vote share to 42.01% vote share from 23.72% vote share in 2017 and bagged 92 seats. As the AAP made inroads in Punjab, the vote share of the Congress declined to 22.98% in 2022 from 40.09% in 2017 and Shiromani Akali Dal’s 34.73% in 2012 to 18.38% in 2022.
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