The electoral victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh is praiseworthy for more than one reason. In Gujarat, the party faced an uphill task to keep its voters intact in view of the decisions like demonetization, and GST. These two decisions though helped Modi Government in curbing corruption alienated the businessmen who have been the traditional voters of the party to a great extent. This might be due to the failure of the ruling party to explain the gains of these two decisions more of the GST to the business community in the language they would understand. The party did rectify this mistake at the end of the campaign. And it paid the dividend to the party, especially in Surat, Vadodara and Ahmedabad. The BJP, its leaders and lakhs of its workers deserve congratulations for this spectacular show of victory. Kudos to them.
The effect of anti-incumbency was also visible. It was only natural for the party that ruled the state for 22 years to face the anti-incumbency load. Besides the Communists who ruled the state of West Bengal for 35 years in consecutive six victories, BJP is the only party to win the sixth consecutive victory in Gujarat anti-incumbency notwithstanding.
But there is a difference in drawing this similarity. During their 35 year-rule in West Bengal, the Communists ruined the economy, destroyed the industry and disturbed the social fabric. The BJP during its 22-year-rule made Gujarat a vibrant economy in the country, improved social harmony and almost buried the caste-communal-religious differences and brought the state on the path of development. Probably, this is the reason why people still voted for the BJP.
Besides, in West Bengal, the late Jyoti Basu was the Chief Minister for 25 years and led the party to its electoral victory every time. In Gujarat, the first drawback of the BJP was the absence of Narendra Modi as Chief Minister. Modi shifted to National politics as Prime Minister in 2014 leaving his legacy of development first to Anandiben Patel and later to Vijay Rupani. But both of them failed to raise their personality at par with Modi, The party leaders and cadre too failed to re-establish connect with the voters in their respective areas.
Pollsters predicted that the BJP would manage to get 110-125 seats in Gujarat in spite of these odds. The various exit polls too gave a majority to the BJP but also showed an increase in Congress tally. However, the loss of 15-20 seats for the BJP is certainly a matter of worry for the party leadership and cadre both. The party leaders will take a serious note of this and will analyse where their policy and strategy failed to yield the expected results.
Gujarat is the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah. So it was natural that the party would benefit from their positions in the national politics. But this election has pointed to the absence of equally credible and powerful leadership at the state level. The party will have to think over this reality and take steps to remove these lacunae. Unlike, Chhattisgarh or Madhya Pradesh and to a great extent Rajasthan also, where the regional leadership of the BJP is quite capable of fetching victory at the hustings. Of late Goa and Assam also have regional leaders of that calibre. Gujarat lacked on this front and this election result has pointed to this reality.
The fact that BJP is now ruling in 19 of the 29 states of the Indian Union is enough for the party workers, leaders and its sympathisers to rejoice. It certainly reflected the mood of the people to make India a vibrant global leader under the leadership of Narendra Modi. This fact is endorsed by the victories of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
As regards the performance of the Congress, it is commendable that they raised their tally from 61 to 77 in Gujarat. The political analysts, pollsters and psephologists give the credit of this ‘best’ performance to the new president of the 134-year-old party Rahul Gandhi. But at the same time, they conveniently forget the thrashing defeat the party received in Himachal Pradesh. If Gujarat success is due to Rahul then what about Himachal Pradesh defeat? Was it not due to Rahul Gandhi also? This logic will not help the Congress party.
In fact, Congress is fast losing connect with the masses. That is why its leaders tried to outsource their election responsibility to people like Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mewani. They also played the caste, religion and creed card to divide the electorate and succeeded to a certain extent. The senior leaders of the party like Mani Shankar Aiyar crossed all limits of decency in criticising the Prime Minister. The Congress leaders even hobnobbed with Pakistani leaders on how to defeat Modi and BJP. That was beyond the understanding of the common masses.
Nowhere during the campaign the Congress and its leaders explained to the voters their idea of development or shared their vision of New India. They did not spell out their programs and plans to improve education, employment, healthcare, industry, infrastructure etc. in the state during the campaign. They only attacked Modi and criticized the BJP leadership forcing them to shift the focus of the campaign from development to emotional appeals. Nevertheless, it is commendable on part of Rahul Gandhi to have single-handedly managed the Gujarat campaign for his party and fetched comparatively good results for Congress.
‘SOFT HINDUTVA’ OF THE CONGRESS PARTY
Another notable feature of this election campaign was ‘Soft Hindutva’ of the Congress party. Traditionally, the Congress banked on votes of the minorities (mostly Muslims and Christians) to win the election. Of late, the Muslim votes are going away from the Congress party and worried by this the Congress President started visiting temples invoking what the media termed ‘Soft Hindutva’ to woo the Hindu voters sitting on the fence. Rahul Gandhi visited 22 temples during his Gujarat campaign but did not feel it necessary to visit a single temple in Himachal Pradesh. Why?
We must understand one thing very clearly. Hindutva or being Hindu is our national identity. You may call it Indian, or Hindustani or even Bharatiya. It makes no difference. This country is known as Hindustan since ages and thus everyone citizen of this country is Hindu by national identity. And there cannot be ‘Soft’ or ‘Hard’ national identity. It is always one and the same for all. So, to say Congress’ Hindutva is ‘Soft’ and BJP’s Hindutva is ‘Hard’ is the height of absurdity. There should not be any confusion about this.
THE SECULAR MEDIA
The secular media also played its role in this campaign, particularly in Gujarat, to defeat BJP. It never questioned Rahul Gandhi or Congress leaders on their invoking caste and communal divide. This double standard of the ‘impartial’ media in our country has been a matter of concern.
VICTORY IS A VICTORY
Now, the results are out and victory is a victory. The lessons learnt from this should be borne in mind by the BJP and focus its agenda only on development. At the same time, it should not neglect the forces that are trying to divert the attention to caste, communal divide and disturb the peace and tranquillity and to sabotage the process of making New India that would be a world leader in coming days.