Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the voters in his home state Gujarat to vote in large numbers. In Gujarat, it was all about making Modi the Prime Minister for the third time. However, on Tuesday May 7, the voter turnout was 60.13 percent on 25 LS seats. In 2019 it was 64.11 percent, so elections 2024 have recorded a difference of 3.98 percent.

Out of the 26 LS seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had already won the Surat seat after its candidate was declared elected unopposed. This had happened after the Congress candidate and his dummy’s papers were rejected on technical grounds and the rest of the candidates in the fray withdrew.

However, whether the low voter turnout in the BJP’s model state is a setback or not for the saffron party remains to be seen, but if one looks at the polling numbers, it clearly indicates that the PM’s appeal did not work on the voters of Gujarat.

During his two-day visit to Gujarat and while addressing six public meetings, covering 11 LS constituencies, PM Modi had said that this time it is not just about winning, but winning big. “We should win 100 per cent polling booths,” Modi had said.

In Gujarat, it was all about making Modi the Prime Minister for the third time, and his ‘guarantees’. It was about Gujarat’s Asmita (pride). All of these, until Union Fisheries Minister Parshottam Rupala spoke.

Rupala’s statement made at a function organised by the Valmiki community in his Rajkot constituency resulted in a stir by the Kshatriya community. Rupala, while praising the Valmiki community for not bowing down before the colonial rulers, went on to say that the Royals kept relations with the colonial rulers and married their daughters to them.

This did not go well with the Kshatriyas, who demanded that he be replaced as a candidate. When the BJP remained firm and did not change Rupala, the community gave a “Boycott BJP” call.

Gujarat Congress president Shaktisinh Gohil told The Citizen, “The appeal of the PM did not appeal to the people of Gujarat.” Gohil alleged that the BJP worker was not enthusiastic. The Rajya Sabha MP questioned as to where the page committee members and page presidents have gone.

The page committee (each electoral page has one committee) is a system developed by the BJP in which party members or those believing in the party’s ideology are made members of the page and one of them is selected as the page president. These workers not only try to ensure 100 percent voting from their page, but they are also in live contact with the masses 365 days, communicating to them about various government schemes and acting as a bridge between the administration and the masses.

Political analyst Hemant Shah observed that while the result is still not out, it appears that the Gujarati nationalism worked on two occasions. “It appears that the enthusiasm of the people has decreased,” Shah said.

Shah opined that the Kshatriyas have brought in a change in Gujarat. He pointed out at the way, people of other castes were supporting the agitation, and the way Kshatriyas were welcomed at Khodaldham, a socio-religious place of the Leuva Patels.

He said in Gujarat perhaps there were people who thought of not voting because of the Kshatriya agitation. “Some felt that there is no democracy and how much would their vote count. It was general apathy,” Shah remarked.

Chief spokesperson of the Gujarat BJP Yamal Vyas, however, claimed that the low voter turnout would benefit the BJP. The Congress, according to him, was nowhere in the picture. He also claimed that the Kshatriya agitation would not change the result.

Albeit there are a few BJP leaders, who tell on the condition of anonymity that the winning margin will surely be affected.

The Gujarat BJP president C. R. Paatil had set a target of winning all the seats by a margin of 5 lakh votes. However, in the last phase of campaigning, this figure was never to be heard.

Senior journalist Darshan Desai said, “Gujarat also has gone by the national phenomenon – general apathy. To add to it, there was heat and this time there was humidity as well”.

Desai said that this time around, internal strife within the BJP came out clearly and at two places they had to change the candidates. “There were fissures in Rajkot,” he said, adding that perhaps this was the reason that the BJP’s party workers could not mobilise the people to vote.

Desai said it is difficult to say who would benefit from the low voter turnout because it is no longer black and white like it used to be in earlier times. “There are grey areas. Sometimes, the low voter turnout helps the ruling party and sometimes the opposition,” he said. “But should the low voter turnout lead to the BJP losing a couple of seats, it would mean that Modi is losing grip in his home state,” Desai observed.

The Kshatriyas say that they have voted in large numbers. And an interesting thing that needs to be taken note of is that normally Kshatriya women do not come out to vote. They only vote for local elections. But they came out in large numbers on May 7.

It remains to be seen if the Congress succeeds in halting the BJP’s winning streak. The Congress fought on 24 seats, leaving two seats to the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party.

Out of the 25 seats where polling took place, it is only in Banaskantha that the voting percentage increased by 3.37 percent as compared to 2019.