Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Modi's "divisive" campaign led to 7% Gujarat Hindu voters' shift to BJP starting November-end till polling day

By Our Representative
Top scholars of the Delhi-based research institute, Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Shreyas Sardesai and Sanjay Kumar, in their incisive analysis of Gujarat elections have revealed that, between November-end and mid-December, there was a massive 7% shift in favour of Hindu voters’ support to the BJP, especially in the urban areas.
Based on the surveys Lokniti, CSDS, carried out among Gujarat votes, the scholars say, “We believe that it is quite obviously Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaigning, which was for the most part controversial and divisive, that played a role in turning a section of voters towards the BJP, thus saving it from a possible defeat.”
Pointing out that between addressed as many as 30 rallies across Gujarat between November 27 and December 11, a virtual carpet bombing, the scholars says, “This is the period when the Prime Minister, who is hugely liked in Gujarat (by 72% of those surveyed, post-poll), campaigned extensively in the state.”
They say, it is in this period that most of Modi’s “speeches, especially the ones made at rallies post-December 5, focussed on divisive themes. Mandir-Masjid, Mughals, Pakistan, Ahmed Patel, Salman Nizami, etc.”, calling it “classic dog-whistle politics by using coded language that might have stoked passions among some sections of the electorate.”
According to them, “In our final pre-poll done in end-November, we had found only about 45% of Hindu voters to be voting for the BJP. In the post-poll, we noticed that eventually nearly 52% of them ended up voting for the incumbent party.”
The scholars say, the institute conducted two pre-poll surveys, one in end-October and another in end-November, and it was found that the electoral race between the BJP and the Congress to had tightened “considerably.” 
“In fact”, according to them, “The November survey had found the race to be neck-and-neck in terms of vote share. That trend, however, did not hold entirely till Voting Day. It now seems that a last-minute swing by some voters towards the final stages of the campaign ended up giving the edge to the BJP.”
Thus, they say, “The poll reveals that over two in every five voters (43%) took a final call on who they would vote for in the last two weeks of campaigning — and more than half of them (53%) said they voted for the BJP.” As against this, in the 2012 polls, “the share of late deciders had been much lower, at 31%.”
Referring to how the Patidars were possibly turned around, the scholars say, “Among the major worries of the BJP all throughout the campaign had been the Patidar disaffection with the party as well as the Congress’s attempts to build a rainbow coalition of different castes by roping in young Patel, Dalit and OBC (Other Backward Classes) leaders on its side.”
To solve this, they says, Modi gave “communal overtones to the campaign”, which apparently “ensured a subsuming of some of these caste identities within the Hindu fold, thus helping the BJP hold on to its bastion.”
“We notice a shift away from the Congress among all Hindu communities, be it Patidars, Kshatriyas, Dalits, and Adivasis, between the pre-poll and the post-poll”, the scholars say, adding, while the Congress also tried to play the Hindu card, “eventually it seems that in this competition to woo the Gujarati Hindus, particularly urban ones, were more convinced by Modi’s insinuations than by Gandhi’s attempts at asserting his Hindu-ness.”
Sharply criticizing the vernacular media for helping stoke communal passion, the scholars say, a day after Modi raised a hue and cry at one of his rallies about Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s remark calling him a “neech kisam ka aadmi (a low type of man)”, the popular daily “Gujarat Samachar”, otherwise critical of Modi, ran a headline on its front page: “Modi neech jaatino maanas chhe: Mani Shankar Aiyar (Modi is a man from a lower caste says Mani Shankar Aiyar)”.
“While Aiyar had described Modi as ‘neech’, the newspaper chose to give the remark its own spin, or rather Modi’s spin, by adding the word ‘jaati’ to it”, they say, calling it “misreporting”.

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