Prashant Jha, a senior journalist, spoke to Deccan Chronicle on the sidelines of Day 2 of the Bangalore Litfest on Sunday. Here are the excerpts.
Do you think youngsters will have a big role in the upcoming Gujarat election?
There are three top young contenders Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mewani and Alpesh Thakore. All of them are electorally untested and do not have any record of strong organisation. The only worry for the BJP would be that Hardik’s rally pulling lot of crowd.
In 1970s, the Congress lost election because of Patels, who were disgruntled because of KHAM (K-Kshtriya, H-Harijan, A-Adivasi and M-Muslim) agi-tation. What role will Patels play in this election?
Patels played a crucial role in the rise of BJP then. A section of Patel community was disgruntled even when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister. Keshubhai Patel was removed from the BJP and Modi was made the CM. But Keshubhai, who floated a separate party to woo Patels, didn’t play any major role. All Patels have not gone against BJP, but the ‘reservation’ agitation of 2015 could play a signification role.
Do you see the emergence of Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat elections?
Earlier, there was inconsistency in Rahul which he is gradually conquering. Now people are willing to listen to him. His social media profile is getting sharper. But still there is more to see from Rahul.
Will Modi’s two major economic reforms GST and demonetisation help BJP’s victory? What will be the real driving factor of the election?
Gujarat is basically composed of businessmen, traders and shopkeepers who were majorly affected by these two moves as they disrupted economic activities. Urban Gujarat is BJP’s stronghold and in the previous election, the BJP managed to get 42 seats out of 46. But this is where the economic discontentment is high as the people are critical and angry. We have to wait and see if GST and demo factors will force voters to choose Congress over BJP.
Do you see a Modi wave in Gujarat which could sweep the election?
I haven’t done any travel in Gujarat yet. But going by the media reports and anecdotal evidence, the BJP is more likely to win the election. And this election will be a personal referendum of Modi himself. Though there has always been a mixed result of opinion polls, all three Indian Today, Times Now and CSDS are in favour of BJP.
Senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram has slammed the Central Election Commission over the delay in announcement of election dates. Does his statement hold any merit?
Announcing of counting dates before the dates for election leads to suspicion that the Election Commission is under the influence of Union government.