After a fiercely contested election campaign for over 2 months now, the cat is finally out of the bag and both the states, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, have emphatically gone to the saffron way in the election results that finally poured in on 18th morning. The result puts a lid over all speculations of an impending negative verdict on PM Modi’s big-ticket economic reforms.
This election was important, as the BJP was not only fighting for retaining its sway in Gujarat by winning its 6th term into office but was also defending a hugely-challenged narrative of Gujarat model, which seemed to have suffered a major dent under a resurgent Congress led by an aggressive and super combative Rahul Gandhi. No doubt, this election has seen a resurgent Rahul Gandhi, who not only led the moribund Congress organization from the front but also managed to put up a rainbow of coalition that thrived on the years of anti-incumbency and put up a semblance of strong fight. However, the fact is that his attempt to divide the Hindu monolith along the various caste fault-lines and to exploit the parochial interests haven’t paid.
Following are the five important take-aways of today’s Gujarat election results:
First, Modi is still the king of electoral politics and the numero uno vote magnet of the party. Gujarat has voted BJP 6th time in power in the name of Modi only. It was a fact that after the exit of Modi from the state politics, the governance had become far too slower in delivering results and many of its policies were not reaching to the ground. Vijay Rupani looked far less a charmer and wasn’t exactly the man needed to tame the anti-incumbency sentiments. On top of it, the heat generated around Demonetization and GST was rubbing off badly on the BJP. For the Congress, it was a now or never moment as with a firm coalition under its belt, it looked eager and full of appetite. Still, BJP walked away with the victory trophy, wholly and solely because of Modi and his reigning magic. The case is much like a football match where the Congress was given to hit a penalty kick, yet it failed to score a goal.
Second, now all opposition charges around the negative effects of Demonetization and GST must be put to rest. Elections after elections, the electorate have given their mandate in favour of the BJP, the last being the landslide victory in UP early this year. Now, with the resounding victories of the party in the Gujarat and Himachal elections, all such negative narratives must be put to the rest. This becomes more pronounced especially when all the 12 seats of Surat areas, which is the hub of the traders’ class and is dominated by the disgruntled Patidar communities, have been retained by the BJP. It proves that the narrative of mass resentment built by the Congress against the BJP’s economic policies were not valid.
Third, despite all things said to the contrary, vikas still resonates with the people which is apparent in the results where the voters have rejected a highly divisive identity politics initiated by Rahul Gandhi, who had cobbled up a regressive casteist coalition and riding the wave of Patidar dissidence, hoped to take on the development plank of the BJP. However, the voters gave the message that, to them, development is far more a lucrative path than divisive agenda of the Congress.
Fourth, the election results give the Congress an opportunity to pause and reflect over their future election strategies. The Congress began its election campaign in Gujarat on a narrative of lies. It hit the campaign with the slogan ‘vikas gando thayo che’ (development has gone mad) and tried to fool the masses with things that were obviously the opposite. Yes, of course, there have been pockets of resentments in the state where the development has failed to make a connect with the ones who needed it. Yet, dismissing the developments of one of the highly developed states altogether and creating a narrative of negativities seems to have backfired on the Congress, which needs to do a rethink before creating an agenda of negativities for future electoral campaigns. Lies have weaker legs that can’t take one farther and convert in votes.
Lastly, these election results must put to rest all controversies around the EVMs and impartiality of the election Commission as the course of the counting since morning has seen huge swinging of fortunes in favour of both BJP and Congress at different points of time giving a perfect rollercoaster effect. It hasn’t been a lopsided win, and with the Congress getting its own moments of celebrations at times, the results have never been a smooth sail for the BJP since the counting began. Also, the huge leads taken by the Congress over the BJP in the areas of Saurashtra, where the former was expected to do better, reflects the reality. Hence, it’s hoped that the EVM controversy has walked to its full length and shall be given a decent burial.