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ABP-CSDS opinion poll shows BJP marginally ahead in race for forming government in Gujarat but Congress is fast bridging the gap in Prime Minister’s home state

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah may be crying hoarse claiming that their party was once again on way to victory – winning 150 seats – in their home state of Gujarat, but if the latest Lokniti-CSDS-ABP News opinion poll on the Gujarat Assembly polls is anything to go by, then the Congress is fast gaining political ground in the western state.

The opinion poll shows that the BJP and Congress could both end up with a 43 per cent vote share in the elections – due in two phases scheduled for December 9 and 14 – and that the saffron party could manage to retain power just by the skin of its teeth – winning between 91 and 99 seats in the 182-member state assembly. The Congress, according to the Lokniti-CSDS-ABP News opinion poll, is likely to finish a very close second, winning between 78 and 86 seats with the remaining going to independents and others.

If the opinion poll is anywhere close to the ground reality, then they mean a huge boost for the Congress whose campaign in Gujarat is being led by the party’s ‘president-elect’ Rahul Gandhi. The opinion poll suggests that the Congress, riding high on an anti-incumbency wave coupled with the support of Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mewani and Alpesh Thakore, is looking at its best ever performance in Gujarat since 1995, when the BJP romped to power in the state and has remained undefeated ever since.

Nearly all aspects of the poll show that the BJP has every cause to be worried in Gujarat – something that seems closer to reality considering that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah’s campaign rallies in their home state have now been marked not by massive crowds but by a huge number of empty chairs.

This is the third in a series of opinion polls that the Lokniti-CSDS-ABP News combine has conducted in Gujarat since early August this year and the latest findings reveal a steady upswing in voter sentiment towards the Congress party. While the first opinion poll done by the Lokniti-CSDS-ABP News had predicted a vote-share of 29 per cent for the Congress against 59 per cent for the BJP, the second poll showed the Congress moving towards a 41 per cent vote share while the BJP’s share plummeting to 47 per cent. With the BJP and Congress both pegged at a 43 per cent vote share according to the latest survey, the Grand Old Party has managed to – at least as per the opinion poll – increase its support among the voters by an impressive 14 per cent in just the past four months while the BJP seems to have lost support of 16 per cent of the electorate. It is pertinent to note that in the first-past-the-post system of elections that India follows; even a one percentage point swing can often change the course of a party’s electoral fortunes from definite defeat to an assured victory.

What is a greater cause of worry for the BJP perhaps is its rapidly eroding popularity in not just the state’s rural areas – which usually favoured the Congress even when the party faced humiliating defeats – but also in the urban areas which have long been considered the BJP’s main votebank, irrespective of caste-equations.

The opinion poll released on Monday showed that while the Congress was expanding on its already strong bastion of north Gujarat, it was also making significant leads in the southern part of the state, while the BJP, although ahead in central Gujarat and the Saurashtra region was also fast losing voter support in these traditional strongholds.

In central Gujarat, Congress is predicted to get 38 per cent votes against the BJP’s 54 per cent while in north Gujarat, the Congress is expected to fetch 49 per cent of votes while the BJP could be limited at 44 per cent.

Significantly, the survey shows that the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has dipped by 18 points from 82 per cent in August to 64 per cent in November among the voters of his home state. During the same period, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s popularity has risen from 40 per cent in August to 57 per cent.

The dip in the BJP’s lead can be partly attributed to anger among traders – a community that constitutes a huge chunk of Gujarat’s electorate. The survey claims that though in October the BJP had a lead of four points among traders; the poll conducted last month showed the trend reversing, with the Congress now getting 43 per cent of the community’s votes as opposed to the BJP’s 40 per cent. This is apparently an indication that the trader community is buying into Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s poll pitch of demonetisation and the GST rollout having spelt doom for their business.

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