How Amit Shah turned BJP's fortunes around in Gujarat
Ahmedabad: The BJP's spectacular show in Gujarat, sweeping all 26 Lok Sabha seats despite a strong performance by the Congress in the Assembly polls, has left many people wondering over how the party achieved it.
'Although we were claiming that we would win all the seats, we did not anticipate it. Amit Shah has pulled off a miracle,' said a Gujarat BJP leader.
Considering party's performance in the 2017 Assembly election, political observers were of the opinion that the BJP may lose at least Lok Sabha four seats. The Congress too was hoping to re-open its account in the state this time. But the results showed that the BJP had increased its vote share by 12.9 percentage points in just 16 months after the Assembly election, upending all calculations.
A party insider said that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr Amit Shah had analysed the ground situation in the state immediately after the Assembly results and started working at the micro level for the Lok Sabha polls. First, Mr Shah identified Lok Sabha constituencies where the Congress was in a position to put up a fight. These were Amreli, Anand, Surendranagar, Bardoli, Junagadh, Chhota Udepur, Patan and Banaskantha seats.
State leaders of the BJP then started approaching powerful Congress leaders and pursued them to join the BJP. Mr Kuvarji Bawalia, a strong leader of the Koli community, was made minister the day he switched over, keeping an eye on the community's huge vote share in Saurashtra.
Ahir community leader and Manavadar MLA Jawahar Chawda was made Cabinet minister the day he crossed over. The strategy behind this move was also to make up for the possible damage to the party's Patidar vote base which had badly affected during the Assembly elections. The leaders' presence seemed to help the BJP secure Koli and Ahir votes and win the Surendranagar and Junagadh Lok Sabha seats.
According to party leaders, Mr Shah was strict and changed a total of 11 candidates on the basis of ground reports without worrying about the possibility of a revolt. Candidates of Banaskantha, Patan, Chota Udepur, Mehsana and Anand were changed. Not only that, Mr Shah made sure that Mr Modi would address rallies only where the party was facing a tough fight from the Congress.
Remaining in the state on April 23, he monitored the situation and ensured maximum voting at the micro level....