From Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s enduring sway to dissatisfaction over inflation and unemployment, here are the 10 factors expected to play a role in elections to the 182-member Gujarat assembly:
- Narendra Modi: BJP has a trump card in the form of the prime minister, who was chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. It has been eight years since he left the chair but his sway over followers in his home state is still intact, and several political observers are of the view that he will be a big deciding factor in the upcoming elections.
- Remission of sentence of Bilkis Bano case convicts: Gujarat is considered the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva laboratory. The impact of the remission of sentences of those convicted in the Bilkis Bano gangrape and murder case will play out differently for the majority and minority communities. Muslims are demanding justice for Bilkis Bano while a section of Hindus would like to ignore the issue.
- Anti-incumbency: The 24-year rule of the BJP, from 1998 onwards, has led to growing dissatisfaction in sections of society, said political observers. People believe that inflation, unemployment and basic issues concerning life have remained unresolved even after so many years of BJP rule, said political observer Hari Desai.
- Morbi bridge collapse: The October 30 bridge collapse which claimed 135 lives in Morbi has brought to the fore the nexus between administration and rich businessmen. The issue is likely to dominate the minds of people when they go to vote to select the next government.
- Paper leaks and postponement of government recruitment exams: Frequent paper leaks and postponement of government recruitment exams have dashed the hopes of youths working hard to get government jobs, leading to much resentment.
- Lack of basic education and health facilities in remote areas of the state: If school classrooms are constructed in remote rural areas, there is a dearth of teachers. And if teachers are recruited, there is a lack of classrooms affecting education. The lack of primary health centres and doctors also adversely affects health services in rural pockets.
- Farmer issues: Farmers are agitating in several parts of the state as they have not been given compensation for crop loss due to excess rains in the last two years.
- Bad roads: Gujarat was earlier known for its good roads. However, in the last five to six years, the state government and municipal corporations have not been able to construct good roads or maintain old roads. Complaints of pothole ridden roads are common from all over the state.
- High electricity rates: Gujarat has one of the highest electricity tariffs in the country. People are looking forward to offers from the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress of giving 300 units free per month. The Southern Gujarat Chambers of Commerce and Industry recently demanded reduction in commercial electricity tariff, saying they have to pay Rs 7.50 per unit while their industry counterparts in Maharashtra and Telangana have to pay Rs 4 per unit.
- Land acquisition: Dissatisfaction among farmers and landowners whose lands are being acquired for various government projects. Farmers, for instance, opposed land acquisition for high-speed bullet train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. They also opposed land acquisition for the expressway project between Vadodara and Mumbai.