Gujarat Election Insights Can BJP overcome anti-incumbency again?


One of the biggest questions posing a daunting challenge to analysts today is, whether there is a post Modi slide in fortunes for the Gujarat BJP. Deep data insights reveal that while the overall mandates in Gujarat looked like a zero sum game, there was a substantial churn on the ground. Contextual factors offset the electoral outcome of the churn, but it might just be that this time round many of those could have peaked , leading to a perception of a visible challenge to the BJP.
In 2002, the BJP polled 50% of the votes winning a huge 128 seats. The 2007 assembly election was supposed to be the one that was to redeem the Modi government as the one with development as its calling card, and with a CM who could beat anti-incumbency. On the face of it, the BJP was redeemed winning 117 seats, with a slightly lower vote share 49%. In 2012, the vote share dipped again by a single percentage point, and the BJP won just two seats less 115, again posting a verdict that looked untouched by the curse of anti-incumbency, and thus reinforcing an unassailable BJP.
However, a closer look at the jigsaw suggests, that the challenge visible to the BJP was actually building up for a while – demographic changes, delimitation, and strengths in certain pockets, rendered macro numbers which looked static, but did not reflect the churn on the ground. Sample this, between 2001 and 2011, the districts that saw a more than 50% growth in urbanization were Surat, Kutch and the north eastern district of Sabarkantha. This was the new generation Gujarati, more exposed to newer enterprises and newer professions, either through industrialization or cooperative movements in the farming and dairy sector. This was the natural constituency, to whom a governance oriented Modi could appeal to.
In 2007, the BJP declined heavily in the Godhra hinterland of central Gujarat, its vote share slipping from 54% in 2002 to 45% in 2007. However in south Gujarat – Surat being the lead city there, which symbolized the newly Industry driven urban Gujarat, the BJP surged from 42% to 51%, almost compensating the vote share loss in central Gujarat. In 2002, the BJP lost most of Kutch district to the Congress, but regained in 2007. In 2007, the non-tribal areas of Sabarkantha and adjoining districts gave a thumbs up victory to the BJP, with the party winning 24 out of 26 seats at stake. Clearly, there was a churn on the ground, the Godhra vote had indeed been replaced by a neo-urban vote.