Back to the re-drawing board

After BJP's delimitation assessment, the confidence of earlier Narendra Modi-led polls has gone missing

In 2002, the BJP rode to power on the Hindutva wave of Godhra and its related bloodshed. In 2007, it was the "Maut ka Saudagar" remark on the Sohrabuddin fake encounter that Chief Minister Narendra Modi turned around to take on Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

Ahead of the 2012 assembly elections, the Congress, compared to the BJP struggling to conceal a split apparently over Modi, looks more united. However, this time, it will be real issues rather than rhetoric that are likely to sway the votes, as this will be the first election fought in the newly delimited constituencies. Both the BJP and the Congress, therefore, are on a "back-to-basics" exercise, since many constituencies considered bastions, have disappeared.

The BJP has already done a micro analysis of each booth on a scale of most-to-least favourable. The analysis compared the 2007 assembly elections with the 2009 general elections, which were fought after the new delimitation. Feelers from the party indicate that the confidence of the earlier two Modi-led polls is clearly missing. And the fight looks more vicious after former CM Keshubhai Patel began the anti-Modi campaign and pracharak-turned-politician Sanjay Joshi reportedly quit the BJP apparently because of Modi.

Ahmedabad-based sociologist Achyut Yagnik says, "After the 2006 delimitation, at least 41 of the old 182 constituencies, many of them represented by prominent BJP ministers, have completely disappeared and at least 18 have either got reserved or de-reserved."

Both the Congress and the BJP are mobilising castes; even Modi, who is an OBC but was never projected as a caste leader, is wooing different communities. The powerful Patidar community, which could swing at least 20 per cent of seats, especially in Saurashtra, stands split as pro- or anti-Modi. Considered influential and progressive in Gujarat, the Patidars are divided as Leuva and Kadva (Patels) and have done independent shows of strength in the last few months, giving Keshubhai a firm Leuva Patel platform to attack Modi. Although Patel might not have influence outside Saurashtra, the recent case against him for making inflammatory speeches indicates a nervousness in the Modi camp.

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