JDU and NCP are getting ready for an all guns blazing battle in Gujarat, sources tell Newsd that the JDU-NCP alliance will project former Union Minister Praful Patel as the CM candidate for the state.
“We have indicated our willingness to Congress for a grand alliance in the state however there is no communication. Elections are nearing and we have to hit the ground with our own strategy and forces” as senior JDU leader told Newsd.
At the face of it, JDU-NCP alliance may look like a non-starter in Gujarat. But, political trend watchers say the alliance can play as a possible spoiler for Congress.
Notably, Gujarat heads to election for the first time in the last 15 years without Narendra Modi as the CM. The entire Patidar movement and Dalit uprising also put the state government, then led by Anandiben Patel, on a shaky ground.
Congress which has performed reasonably well in the local body election in rural areas sees Gujarat 2017 as a now or never situation. Any vote loss will be counterproductive to the grand old party’s aspirations.
Notably, NCP & JDU together polled 1.6 per cent in 2012 assembly and 1.3 per cent in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In 2012, NCP with 0.9 per cent of the total votes polled won two seats, stayed runner-up in two seats and finished a close third in five. Likewise, JDU won a seat and ended at the third position in four seats polling 0.7 per cent of the total votes.
“Patidars are one of the biggest hopes for the Congress. The Hardik Patel agitation followed by removal of a Patidar from CM post in Gujarat has put the state’s most powerful community on the edge” a senior Gujarat-based journalist told Newsd. When Anandiben Patel was removed from Gujarat CMship, it was widely speculated that she will be succeeded by a Patidar. Names of Saurabh Patel and Nitin Bhai Patel were in serious reckoning. “Giving mantle to Vijay Rupani also upset some Patels,” he said.
An NCP-JDU alliance with a Patidar, Praful Patel as the CM face may have a reasonable impact on this vote group which comprises of approximately 23 per cent of the state’s population. Even JDU supremo Nitish Kumar comes from the Patidar (Kurmi) community.
“It’s too early to gauge the pan Gujarat impact of this alliance but it will definitely hurt the Congress’ prospect in the closely contested seats,” the Gujarat journalist quoted.
There are many seats that BJP won with less than two per cent margins. Then there are seats like Mahua which BJP won with a comfortable margin of 11,687 votes in 2012. In this seat an independent candidate Deepak Gadasiya got 11,616 votes and JDU got another 2,000 votes.
Even within Congress circles, there is a significant group from Gujarat which is strongly suggesting a Patidar leader as the CM face. One of the names doing the rounds is that of Sidharth Patel, which has led to the Shankar Singh Vaghela faction to threaten to leave the party. While the Gujarat PCC chief Bharatsinh Solanki also nurtures CM aspirations.
Keeping all this in view, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi appointed former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot as the in-charge of the state recently. Keeping factionalism in check and striking a favourable alliance will be a tricky task for the Congress old hog.
With inputs from Neeraj Bhatia (@_N33R4J_)