What looked like a BJP walkthrough three months ago, has taken the shape of an interesting contest now. Inputs from NewsCode team of local news partners in Gujarat say that the Congress Party has returned to reckoning in the state because of two reasons, the election of Ahmed Patel to Rajya Sabha and traders suffering because of the GST brunt.
“GST in isolation may not have caused such serious impact on traders. But as it comes even before most have recovered from demonetisation, the impact is very unbearable in many cases,” said a senior journalist, based in Ahmedabad.
It cannot be denied that traders have been the backbone of BJP machinery in Gujarat. They also played a key role in the general elections of 2014. “In Surat, we had more than 3 lakh people from states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. We granted paid leave along with return tickets to all our labour to go and cast vote in 2014. But every action this government takes, it appears we are the enemy number one,” a mid-size Surat-based garment maker said.
The general sense in Gujarat is that the feeling of anger in traders is almost similar to Patidars. Perhaps, the only relief for BJP is the fact that Congress is not particularly popular among traders. They face a certain deficit of trust. On the other hand, BJP is somehow confident that despite all the anger, traders are not going to desert them.
“We feel the pain of the trading community and we are constantly working on remedial measures. They may be angry, but they won’t do anything which will damage the prospects of BJP,” a senior poll strategist with the ruling party said.
Though Ahmed Patel’s election to the upper house does not have any bearing on the voters, it has ushered in a fresh lease of life and energy to the party workers.
Shankersinh Vaghela, a.k.a Bapu had become synonymous to Gujarat Congress for over a decade and reportedly exercised a phenomenal control on the worker machinery of the state. “Bapu’s exit from Congress is also a blessing in disguise,” a Gujarat Congress MLA said.
“The good thing is that perhaps for the first time in many years, Congress is putting up a fight as a united force. Egoes have been set aside, all top leaders are in talking terms with each other. If the same trend continues in ticket distribution, we will throw a big surprise,” the Congress MLA said.
Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, is on a three-day tour of the state. This is being seen as the launch of the official campaign. The Congress scion’s visit comes close on the heels of two very successful social media campaigns that Gujarat
Congress ran in recent days, namely: Vikas has gone crazy and Gujarat has been duped. “We just hope the momentum sustains,” said Saral Patel, a Congress sympathiser.