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BJP prepares to keep its flag flying high atop Fortress Gujarat

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New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) Gujarat is considered not only as BJP’s stronghold but also its laboratory.

It also holds importance for the party as it is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

Although the party has not lost a single election here since 1995, it does not want to take any chance in the upcoming Assembly elections, preparations for which have started on a war-footing.

In the run-up to the Assembly polls scheduled for the year end, the most popular faces of the BJP — former Chief Minister of the state and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, who has the details of every locality and booth of Gujarat — have got into action.

Besides, BJP National President J.P. Nadda has also taken over the election command.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened an important meeting with party leaders at his official residence 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, in connection with the polls. All senior leaders, including Home Minister Shah, Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, besides state ministers and party veterans attended the meeting, which lasted for about two hours.

Gujarat Law Minister Rajendra Trivedi and State Chief Secretary Kailashnathan were also present.

Though there has been no official communication in this regard, in view of the political and administrative matters of the state, it is being considered very crucial.

The party is attempting to work out strategies to counter Congress like in the 2017 Assembly polls. It aims at getting better results compared to last elections. Actually, BJP has been in power in Gujarat continuously since 1995. After Narendra Modi took over as the Chief Minister in 2001, the BJP became invincible in the state, but after Narendra Modi came to Delhi as the Prime Minister in 2014, the party’s performance has witnessed a slight fall.

This can be assessed by analysing the poll results since 1995. In the five consecutive Assembly elections — 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007 and 2012 — the party has been forming the government by winning between 115 and 127 seats out of the total 182 in the state. But in 2017, after Modi became the prime minister in 2014, the seats have been reduced to less than 100. In 2017, it could bag only 99 seats.

Congress had won 77 seats in this election. In terms of voting percentage, the BJP got the support of 49 per cent voters, while the Congress also gave a tough fight to it with 41.5 per cent votes.

After suffering a setback, the BJP undertook a complete revamping of the structure and changed not only the government but also the chief minister. Now the biggest challenge is to win more than 115 seats and form the government for the seventh successive term with a thumping majority at the end of 2022.

With this objective, Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister and Lok Sabha member Amit Shah and Nadda have started preparations making several trips to the state. The very next day after the results of Assembly polls were announced, the Prime Minister embarked on a two-day visit to the state and addressed a huge roadshow in Ahmedabad and a rally of elected representatives of Panchayat Raj institutions.

Home Minister Amit Shah, who along with Prime Minister Modi made the BJP invincible in Gujarat, is also visiting the state continuously and holding meetings with party leaders for working out an election strategy.

On Friday, party president Nadda also reached the state office of Gujarat and interacted with the members of the election committee of the state, BJP MPs, MLAs, Mayors of the Municipal Council, Deputy Mayors, Standing Committee Chairmen.

He also held an important meeting with the Zilla Parishad Presidents as well as former MPs and MLAs of the party regarding the election strategy.

Late in the evening, he met with all the leaders of the State Core Committee and the State Election Committee at the Chief Minister’s residence, discussed the political situation and election strategy of the state separately.

Nadda, who reached Gujarat, reiterated that Gujarat is a laboratory for the BJP in matters related to governance and organisation.

Resignation of the then Chief Minister Rupani and his council of ministers last year and the subsequent formation of a new government under Bhupendra Patel was an experiment done as part of the party’s special strategy, he added.

Criticising the Aam Aadmi Party, he said: “Let us tell you that for the last several decades, the main contest in the state has been between the BJP and the Congress, but the Aam Aadmi Party, excited by the victory of Punjab, has also started preparations for the state’s Legislative Assembly elections in full swing.”

“Kejriwal, in alliance with the Tribal Party of India, which won three seats in the 2017 Assembly elections, is trying to challenge the BJP in the state, while the Congress, which managed to bring the BJP below 100 in the 2017 Assembly elections, is also in the state. I am engaged in formulating a strategy to end 27 years of exile,” he added.

The BJP, he said, is facing challenges on many fronts simultaneously to counter the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party. At the organisational level, all the leaders of the party have been asked to accept the change and fight the elections unitedly again to form the BJP government in the state.

In the coming days, efforts will be made to reach out to all the voters and beneficiaries of all the 182 Assembly seats. Besides, attempts are also being made to woo the Patidar, Dalit and Adivasi voters of the state.

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