PROSPECTS IN GUJARAT
The Morbi Bridge incident, though very tragic, may not have a telling bearing on the BJP’s election prospects in Gujarat.
The Indian state of Gujarat is going to the polls this December. The elections for the 15th Legislative Assembly of the state are set to be held in two phases, on December 1 and 5. The results would be announced on December 8. However, it is apt to ask as to what are the prospects of the BJP, especially in the wake of tragic Morbi bridge collapse.
The main contending parties include the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Indian National Congress (INC) and the emerging Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The BJP has been in power in Gujarat since the mid 1990s. While the Congress has been the major opposition party all the time, this time around, it is, the AAP which seems to have very good chances of becoming the main opposition party. The perception is that it may get more votes than the poll surveys suggest. However, it is worth mentioning that in 2017 elections, AAP fielded candidates on about 30 seats, and failed to win even a single seat.
Although the BJP may win the elections, there is a perception that it would not be able to sweep the polls easily this time as it has done in the past, as there has happened a lot in the meantime, which is at play against the BJP in the home state of current Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Morbi Bridge collapse, it is perceived, may dent the popularity of the BJP. For those who may not be aware of this tragic incident, the 140 year old cable suspension bridge over Machhu River near Morbi, a town in Gujarat, collapsed in late October and resulted in the death of about 140 out of about 500 people who were standing on it. The bridge, a colonial remnant, had been repaired and opened to the public days before the accident.
Many hold the BJP responsible for this unfortunate accident. It has been accused of awarding the repair contract to a clock repairing company of Oreva Group without floating the tender and seeking bids from other companies. The people of the state, especially the locals, are quite indignant at the fact that the bridge fell despite permission having been given by the Municipal Corporation and the company. The main culprits involved in the tragic incident were allegedly roaming freely. The authorities have failed to nab the real perpetrators.
The AAP is manipulating the situation. Its leaders are holding the BJP leadership accountable for the unfortunate incident. They vehemently allege that the BJP is the killer.
Before the Morbi incident the BJP had appeared strong given the fact that it had won most of the by-elections held after the 2017 state polls. In fact, at the time when the BJP had formed the government it had 99 members in the Legislative Assembly. However, it took its total to 112 through by-elections.
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