Guj campaign takes off on ‘vikas’, but ghosts of communal divide lurk around

The Gujarat Assembly elections will see core issues like development, failure of Opposition, a plan for what the people of Gujarat want, drug smuggling, law and order. However, once the campaign heats up communal polarization is likely to overtake all these issues, as has been the experience in the last few elections.

The Bharatiya Janata Party government has taken up many development works in the last 20 years, “The party will take up issues like bringing SAUNI, Sujalam Sufalam irrigation and drinking water projects for Saurashtra-Kutch and North Gujarat, industrial investments in the state generating employment, roof-top solar programmes that benefitted lakhs of households, electric vehicles policy giving subsidy, agriculture policy, Metro train for Ahmedabad and Surat, high speed train for Gujarat to win people’s hearts for the sixth consecutive time,” said Yamal Vyas, chief spokesman of the party.

Over and above the development work, the party is conducting surveys at several levels and segments of the society, getting citizens feedback on what their expectations are from the BJP government. Based on the feedback a new development road map will be prepared and implemented, said Vyas.

There is no doubt that the election campaign will start with the development issues, but as the election approaches, the campaign tone will change slowly and turn into polarizing the voters on communal lines. Once the nomination of candidates is completed, it will reach a peak, observed Hemant Shah, economist and political analyst.

The burning issues of the state are quality education and privatisation, free electricity upto 300 units, contractual employment, which should be debated in the campaign but these are on the backburner, believes Shah.

Says senior Congress leader Deepak Babaria, the people of the state are suffering from inflation, high education expenditure, shrinking space for democracy, corruption, Gujarat becoming the hub of landing drugs, deteriorating law and order situation, increase in human trafficking. The BJP would not like to talk about these issues, but the Congress campaign will focus on them, he added.

But, he too fears that in the last leg of the campaign, caste politics and communal polarization will be the front-runners, and the core issues will be overshadowed.

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