The Election Commission has announced that polling for the Gujarat Assembly will take place on 1 and 5 December, with counting taking place on 8 December. The political atmosphere in the state has already taken a bitter turn after the Morbi deaths. After the initial shock, the opposition parties and the social media trolls have targeted the Prime Minister personally for the tragedy on a number of counts ranging from ‘insensitivity’ to being behind the ‘favours’ given to those entrusted with renovating and operating the ill-fated bridge.
Now, it is being alleged that the Election Commission deliberately delayed the poll announcement to give the PM the opportunity to make successive visits to the state and launch a number of projects. Earlier, there were protests that Maharashtra was overlooked in favour of Gujarat in allocating the Tata-Airbus aircraft project, implying that this was done for electoral advantage. This is only the beginning and already there is much the opposition will harp on.
The focus on Modi is because everybody knows it is he who will make the difference; otherwise there is not much remarkable about the BJP government in the state. Having been in power for a long time, it is likely to face substantial anti-incumbency. Maintaining a balance between caste interests has been a tough task, with each seeking a greater slice of the cake. There is going to be greater trouble when the names of the candidates are announced. Both, the Congress and newbie AAP are only too willing to induct those rejected. This is particularly so in the case of AAP, which has many vacancies, lacking as it does anything like a local cadre.
Everybody knows that the big question facing the Gujaratis after all the calculations are done is whether they are prepared to let down Modi, who represents their presence on the national stage (along with Amit Shah). And this is exactly the reason why politicians and the social media battalions are so strongly targeting Modi’s image. This demonisation extends to ridiculous limits, but if it works, who cares? The results will become known on 8 December but, till then, the theatrics will continue and achieve unprecedented levels of hysteria. India can only watch and wonder what impact this contest will have on the 2024 General Elections.