Gujarat handed the sixth consecutive victory to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. At the same time, it has become the launching pad for Rahul Gandhi into the political arena pulsating with renewed vigour. Yet, there is no room for complacency either for Modi or Gandhi. The road ahead promises to be arduous for both!
The BJP’s sixth successive victory in the Gujarat Assembly Elections will decide the course of Indian politics till the next general elections.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP National President Amit Shah have won the election, it has certainly stopped the duo’s juggernaut. After winning the Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, the saffron stronghold in the states increases to 19 out of 29 states.
Unlike the 2012 Assembly elections, when the BJP scored 117 seats with Modi as the chief minister of the state, the ruling party this December stopped one short of 100 seats. This is far below the target of 150 seats set by the BJP President Amit Shah ahead of the elections.
Is Modi’s charm waning? That too on his home turf, which made him the chief minister thrice and then catapulted him to the position of the country’s prime minister, with majority seats in the Lok Sabha?
Prime Minister Modi had undertaken several trips to Gujarat and had literally sweated it out in road shows and rallies, and inaugurating infrastructural projects during the last three months before the elections. In fact, Modi had rushed to Gujarat to hold over 35 meetings and rallies across the state. Interestingly, there was no reference to the ‘Gujarat Model’ this time around.
Further, a close analysis of the elections points out the worst for the BJP.
The BJP and Congress were locked in a nail-biting contest for at least 16 seats in Gujarat, where the victory margin was less than 2,000 votes and just about 200 votes in a few. In Godhra, BJP’s CK Raulji won by merely 258 votes!
Worst, the Unjha constituency went to the Congress, which includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hometown of Vadnagar. It was bagged by Congress’ Asha Patel, who defeated the sitting BJP MLA, Patel Narayanbhai Lalludas, by a margin of over 19,500 votes in the traditional stronghold of the Patidar community. While Patel polled 81,797 votes, her BJP rival got only 62,268.
The BJP’s central leadership is also toying with the idea of a strong and popular leader to head the government in Gujarat. He or she can fulfil the promises made to the electorate and turn a desperate-looking BJP into a cohesive force.
Gujarat Elections 2017 will be seen as a revival for the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi, who was recently elevated to the post. Congress has won 77 seats, but the figure is 80 if you take into account the Congress-backed candidates.
The Gujarat Election result is being seen as the first litmus test for Gandhi, for whom it’s only the third day as party president. The 47-year-old led the party’s campaign successfully and built a social coalition with several smaller community leaders, including Hardik Patel who leads the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS), Dalit activist, Jignesh Mevani and OBC leader, Alpesh Thakor. This benefitted the party increasing its tally by 16 seats.
The vote swing for the party will boost its morale in the coming polls in the states, such as Karnataka, Tripura, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan as well as the general elections in 2019.
Why is the performance significant for the Congress in Gujarat? The grand old party failed to win a single seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Gujarat, as the BJP swept the state winning in all the 26 parliamentary constituencies. The performance could boost the morale of the party cadre, especially as the party has seen losses in nearly a dozen state elections since the drubbing in 2014.
Also, it could boost the party’s chances ahead of key upcoming elections in Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. These states will go to the polls in the next one year and will see the Congress in a direct contest with the BJP.
Gandhi will have to draw lessons from his mother, who has dealt effectively with political stalwarts in the Opposition, such as Sharad Pawar, Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav over the years and managed to do business with them. He already has good equations with the young Turks of the opposition parties, such as Akhilesh Yadav (SP) and Tejaswi Yadav (RJD).
The Gujarat election results could also set the tone for the Congress’ campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections under Gandhi.
While Rahul Gandhi will be on the test until the 2019 General Elections, the Prime Minister too has to work on his governance-delivery indicators — ‘reform-perform-transform’ scorecard.