The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday dismissed as "wide off the mark" a new opinion polls findings that showed the Congress gaining heavily and fast catching up with the ruling party in Gujarat as well as closing the gap between the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi as compared to the similar last two polls done in August and October.The Congress welcomed the findings saying the voters in Gujarat have already decided to vote the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government out.The Lokniti-CSDS survey done in the last week of November among 3,655 voters across 50 assembly constituencies threw up some surprising results as it found the Congress leading among voters who take pride in their Gujarati identity over national identity, suggesting that the "Gujarati Asmita" card might not work as the BJP expects it to.It also found Rahul Gandhi's popularity surging while that of Modi taking a slight hit and the gap between the two leaders' likeability by the public narrowing down to just seven points from 16 points in October. With 64 per cent votes, Modi still remains the most popular leader in the state though.
The survey noted that over the last month the Congress staged an "impressive recovery" in the southern and central regions of Gujarat where it had been trailing the BJP by quite a huge margin. In north Gujarat, the Congress has managed to hold on to its "fairly big lead" over the BJP, it said.In rural Saurashtra, the Congress is the front runner while the BJP dominates in urban Saurashtra. This rural-urban pattern of support is evident in most parts of the state, the poll said.The survey opined that economic hardships faced by the voters is a major reason behind the Congress' rise and also a major reason for the Patidars' support to the Congress besides Hardik Patel's call to defeat the BJP over their unmet demand for reservation."It seems that India's rise in World Bank's ease of doing business ranking, Moody's ratings upgrade for the Indian economy and the concessions given by the government with regard to GST have not really improved voters' perception of Modi's performance," the survey said.The survey also ascribed the Congress' new found support among women as another reason for its rising popularity. A month ago, women were found to be strongly backing the BJP over the Congress (50:39 per cent). This 11 point gap has now reduced to just two points, the opinion poll found.Welcoming the survey findings, Congress Spokesman Sanjay Jha said the survey "clearly manifests that there is an increasing momentum towards the Congress party in Gujarat". "The Gujarat voters have already decided to vote BJP government out, largely because the so-called ‘Gujarat Model' was a fictitious and fraudulent spin which today stands totally exposed. That is why a nervous BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is the principal campaigner in Gujarat, are indulging in communal polarisation," Jha told IANS.However, the BJP dismissed the poll findings as "off the mark" and said the Congress was nowhere in the race, much like the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections."Both the opinion and exit polls of the CSDS-Lokniti in Uttar Pradesh projected victory for the Congress-Samajwadi Party combine, which the BJP won with a landslide margin. The series of CSDS polls are as wide off the mark in Gujarat as they were in Uttar Pradesh," BJP Spokesman G.V.L. Narasimha Rao told IANS. "The Congress party's so-called comeback in Gujarat is as strong as it was in Uttar Pradesh," he added.