NEW DELHI:Gujarat was torn between town and country for the assembly polls. Voters in cities—Surat, Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar Vadodara, Rajkot backed the BJP strongly and helped it cross the mark.
Rural voters preferred the Congress whose leader Rahul Gandhi attracted support in 68 of 124 constituencies in the countryside.
The Congress’ largest gains came from the countryside, particularly Saurashtra, a predominantly rural belt comprising 11 districts and a third of the State’s area. In this region, the Congress won in about 32 seats, compared to 27 of the BJP. This translates to a loss of 15 seats for the BJP and a gain of 13 for the Congress.
Despite the fear among BJP workers that they would be punished by urban voters because of GST and demonetization the party got support across urban Surat that is a traders’ hub. The business community backed the party, a sign that the leadership is interpreting as a thumbs-up to Modi’s economic policies.
The Congress sensed the rural angst and Rahul Gandhi campaigned intensively with the promise to waive farm loans if his party were to win.
The Surat region is dominated by jewellery and textile businesses that were hurt by GST. There were protests across the region with shopkeepers shutting their businesses for days. But the verdict today indicates that business owners may have later reconciled to GST and believed that it would help streamline processes.In the Surat region, the party won all 10 seats despite Rahul Gandhi’s campaign during which he described GST as Gabbar Singh Tax.
The Congress fared better in Saurashtra, the cotton belt of the state where the price of the cash crop has been falling steadily since 2012 and has made it unremunerative for farmers. The rural-urban divide has been further accentuated with the Congress winning in Unjha that used to be Modi’s home.
Part of the reason for the support that the Congress has got in rural areas is because of the tie-up with Hardik Patel’s Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS).
Patel commanded stronger support among the Patels in rural areas than those in the cities with his movement for increased quotas in jobs.The appeal of the Congress as well as that of the PAAS waned in the urban seats. There are about 60 of the 182 seats that are urban where the BJP won handsomely despite the anti-incumbency.