Speculation is rife in the political circles that the ruling BJP in Gujarat may opt for early Assembly polls in the state, following the party’s landslide victory in the Uttar Pradesh election. Officially, the BJP has denied the possibility, but some leaders from both the ruling party and the opposition think that it cannot be ruled out. Assembly election in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state is due in December. But, there is a speculation that the polls could be advanced to July or September. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, when asked about the possibility of an early election in the aftermath of the Uttar Pradesh poll results, said the party had a five-year mandate in Gujarat and the government will complete its full term, adding that the election will be held in December. However, BJP sources indicated that anything is possible in view of the political situation in Gujarat as winning the election in his home state would be crucial for Modi ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The decision rested with Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, they added. The party has come up with the ‘UP mein 325, Gujarat mein 150’ slogan, setting itself a target of winning 150 of the 182 Assembly seats in the state. Banners and posters with the slogan and photos of Modi and Shah have been put up and pamphlets distributed in the big cities. The saffron party is facing several challenges in Gujarat, such as a disgruntled Patel community which wants OBC quota, Dalit resentment over cow vigilantism incidents, absence of a strong state-level leader after Modi left for Delhi and a continuing agrarian distress. Besides, the BJP, which has ruled the state for 19 consecutive years, would also be facing anti-incumbency.
Main opposition Congress is expecting early polls and has started preparations accordingly. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Shankersinh Vaghela has said his party is ready as the state government may declare an election anytime. “The process of candidate selection is on and tomorrow, we have called 1,540 aspirants who have filled up forms seeking nomination,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi. The AAP, which is eyeing to make inroads in the state, feels that the BJP may go for early polls to dent the prospects of the Arvind Kejriwal-led party. “An early election is the game plan of Amit Shah and company. They are scared of us. They think if polls are held early, AAP will not have enough time to prepare,” the party’s Gujarat in-charge and Delhi minister Gopal Rai said.