Ahmedabad: Gujaratis went into 2021 in the fervent hope that the worst was behind and the ruling BJP began with huge victories in the February-March local body elections.
Like several other states, Gujaratis didn’t know -- and the government was in a celebratory mode to care -- that a nightmare was in the offing.
Soon the sights of ambulances queuing up outside hospitals, people waiting their turn for hours to cremate their near-and-dear ones, gasping for oxygen and begging for every single vial of Remdesivir became common. And here was a floundering government, in a denial mode, more into managing data than the virus.
Months later, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and his team celebrated completing five years of “good governance.” And in September, realising that the party could not face an election in December 2022 under this regime, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted a surgical strike uprooting not only Rupani but his entire ministry -- from top to bottom.
The BJP top brass understood well that 2022 was not only about elections in its prized state, but several other crucial states like Uttar Pradesh. The party had begun preparations right in 2020 when a new State President, CR Paatil, who was Modi’s trusted lieutenant in his Varanasi campaign, was appointed. One year later, in August, Ratnakar was named the general secretary (organisation). He was also in the Varanasi team.
The big advantage BJP has is that the principal Opposition, the Congress party, is in a state of disarray while Aam Aadmi Party and AIMIM are gaining group at the cost of the Congress.
The opposition party could not appoint a state president for nine months till December when they brought in senior leader Jagdish Thakor from the OBC Kshatriya community. The party also now has Raghu Sharma from Rajasthan as the AICC in-charge of Gujarat.
But it is the AAP, which staged a major upset when it won as the main opposition in the Surat Municipal Corporation bagging 27 seats against the BJP’s 93. Congress just doesn’t have representation in the city. On its debut, AIMIM picked seven seats in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and 17 out of 24 it contested in three municipalities. Needless to say, all these were Congress seats.
The only little reason to cheer, if at all, for the Congress is that firebrand Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani has joined the party, while it has another young turk, working president Hardik Patel. Only time will tell how much impact the two could create.
The most recent instance of the Aam Aadmi Party hogging the limelight was when it exposed the head clerk exam paper leak scam and forced the government not only to order a police investigation but also to put off the exams. The police investigation took only a week to establish the scam. Scores of AAP leaders and workers even laid a siege on the State BJP headquarters in an unprecedented act for any fledgling political party in Gujarat.
As things stand now, the BJP seems to have most odds in its favour in 2022.