Gujarat Polls: What’s the Secret Behind Amit Shah’s ‘Mission 150’?

BJP’s “mission 150” for Gujarat is a dream the party high command has been carrying around for a while.

Updated
Politics
3 min read
Amit Shah flagging off the second phase of the ‘Gujarat Gaurav yatra’ in Porbandar.
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When Narendra bhai was Chief Minister, we got 120 seats. Now that he is Prime Minister, we have to win 150.

BJP president Amit Shah made this pronouncement just two months after the party’s big win in UP Assembly elections. He said this during a speech in tribal-dominated Devaliya village of Chhota Udepur district, an area generally known to favour the Congress — maybe that is why he repeated his statement before party workers with added force.

BJP’s ‘Mission 150’ for Gujarat is not just any routine election target. It is a dream, one that the party high command has been carrying around for a while. This dream went unrealised even during Narendra Modi’s heydays as Chief Minister – 2002 to 2014 – a time when BJP’s popularity was at its peak.

Why ‘Mission 150’?

The roots of ‘mission 150’ can be traced back 32 years, to the 1985 election.

In 1985, veteran leader Madhav Singh Solanki led the Congress (I) to a record-breaking win in Gujarat winning — 149 of the 182 seats with 55.55% vote share. This record remains unbroken to this day.

The BJP won only 11 seats that year, Janta Party finished second with 14 seats.

Although, after that the BJP went on to improve its performance with every election, eventually coming to power in 1995 with 121 seats.

Cong Vs BJP in Gujarat

The graph makes it clear that the BJP’s best score was 127 seats in 2002 — the year of the Gujarat riots when the saffron wave of Hindutva carried the party to victory. Even during the heydays of Narendra Modi’s popularity as CM, BJP was unable to hit the seemingly near-impossible target of 150.

But after the 2014 Lok Sabha win with 282 seats, and the victory in UP with 309 seats, no target seems out of reach for Amit Shah.

In fact, the euphoria of the UP win is such that hoardings of PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah with the slogan “UP mein 300, Gujarat mein 150” (300 in UP, 150 in Gujarat) have already gone up.

Will the BJP Achieve This 'Mission Impossible'?

In the last 22 years, BJP’s winning score has never gone below 115, but this time it’s a tougher contest. Ever since Modi became Prime Minister in 2014, Gujarat has lost the ‘Modi touch’.

Patidar agitation, anger among the OBC, discontentment among farmers and the youth, affects of GST and demonetisation on businessmen, are some of the many challenges facing the party.

Social media campaigns like “vikas gando theo che” (development has gone crazy) a play on the word ‘vikas’ which means development, have turned BJP’s weapon on itself.

These could be some of the reasons why BJP leaders seem to have generally avoided mentioning ‘mission 150’ in their recent rallies, despite the party president having given the target.

The government’s attempt to appease the business community with the announcement of a new textile policy and lowering of petrol and diesel prices, all during Rahul Gandhi’s campaign in Gujarat, are a clear indication of jitters in the BJP camp.

BJP President Amit Shah with party leaders in Gujarat. 
BJP President Amit Shah with party leaders in Gujarat. 
(Photo: bjp.org)

BJP's Plus Points

BJP has one strong plus point, its ability to get voters out of their homes and into pooling booths.

Last year there was 71.32% polling in Gujarat, of which 47.85% went in favour of the BJP. Apart from the party’s popularity, it is believed that a significant amount of credit behind the number lies in Amit Shah’s booth-level planning.

Also, BJP is yet to lay down its trump card, PM Narendra Modi. Party leaders believe that Modi’s rallies will easily steer the election in their favour.

Political analysts with an eye on Gujarat believe the BJP is going through its worst time in the state in 15 years. If the party manages a comfortable victory in this atmosphere, it will be more of a Congress loss than a BJP win.

(This story was originally published on Quint Hindi.)

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