CNN-IBN telecast a prepoll survey on the 2007 Gujarat elections a couple of week ago. It concludes that Modi might still carry this election, but there is a chance that he might lose. Things will be crystal clear on the 23rd of December, 2007 when the results will be announced.
This is the second election Modi faces after the riots of 2002. He romped home easily the last time around because the communities were heavily polarised then. What has changed over the last five years? For one, his dictatorial style of functioning has become more and more apparent (fascism might be a strong word to use here right now, but if he carries on the way he has done in the past, we will get there soon enough). Not many dispute the economic progress Gujarat has achieved under him. People seem to be quite happy with him. But is authoritarianism a valid price to pay for development? Well, let the people of Gujarat decide about it.
The Tehelka expose of the riots no longer makes headlines. The Congress has wisely decided against making it a poll issue. There is absolutely no doubt that using the riots as a poll plank is akin to handing over the election on a silver platter to Modi. It might sound cruel to even suggest this; but the 1000 odd people (mostly Muslims) who lost their lives during the riots no longer matter in the bigger scheme of things. People don’t like to wallow in the past, more so if it is a bad one. Most people now agree that there was active involvement of the state in the riots. But, unfortunately, Gujarat was not the first time this has happened. And it won’t be the last time. It is now up to the law to bring the guilty to book. But, again, that has never happened in the past. And I don’t see it happening in this case too.
So, there are only two issues this election – development and Modi. And Modi seems to have all his bases covered. But India is a strange country and people behave in the most unexpected manner. If the people decide that they have had enough of the Modi style of politics, development be damned, they might vote that way without mentioning it to anyone – pollster or otherwise. Whatever happens, the 2007 Gujarat elections are going to be very interesting.