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Archive for the month “December, 2017”

Five Take-aways from the Gujarat Victory

 

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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.

Krishnakuamr@ThoughtPourri, 2017

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Anatomy of the ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’

Each time you watched Rahul Gandhi take to the stage during his Gujarat election campaigns and explain before a waiting crowd that the GST is nothing but ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, you must have wondered what’s wrong with the man. Whether he’s really a dumb, fit enough for his famous sobriquet ‘Pappu’? You must have squirmed in disgust as to how a responsible politician can mislead the masses. Simultaneously, you must have got curious to know which school Rahul Gandhi got his economics lessons from.

However, let me tell you he’s perfectly all right and that he’s got his lessons from the best school of a politician – the dusty by-lanes of Indian politics.

Politics is all about reaching out to the masses and making an everlasting connect with them; it’s a bonding made stronger with deft communication, apt vocabulary and noisy rhetoric. The greater your ability to connect with the rank and file of the profanum vulgus, the better is your chances in politics. Add a bit of theatrics and voila! You’ve got what it takes.

After 17 or so defeats in successive elections, Rahul Gandhi now seems to have learnt the ropes. Many political observers and analysts believe that Rahul has found his tongue. He’s discovered the art of communication, at least to the best of his limitations. ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ serves the best example.

GST brought with it two ‘miseries’ to the common people; the first, disruption in normal economic activities of the small traders and second, complexities. Close on the heels of demonetization, GST brought another commotion in the life of the common man, especially small traders and businessmen. They’ve their experiences to believe GST is bad but the government has its data to prove it’s good. In the scenario, a clever politician knows that theoretically speaking, GST can’t be opposed. It can be defeated only through canards and polemics.

A polemic of lies and derision is the best anecdote to constructive ideas.

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‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ invented that polemic of lies which the disgruntled aam aadmi was looking for and Rahul Gandhi made the most of it. The masses were exhilarated at the description. Each time Gandhi twisted the microphone and uttered the phrase ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, the crowd went berserk in jubilation and he listened to the catcalls of the jeering audience with a conceited smirk. He knew he had given expression to the anger of the millions. He didn’t know himself what it exactly meant. He need not, either. His job was done.

No amount of pedantic discourse or academic description can destroy the effects of a ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ narrative. Today, no one remembers what Arun Jaitley said to counter the Gabbar Singh jibe, though he said all those academically correct things. Yet, people only remember what Rahul said. And that’s the art of making a connect. 

A good many people are disenchanted in some way or other and a section of media has worked overtime to prove that the government policies are anti-people. Mainstreaming the cash economy and forcing people to live in transparent glasshouses has its own challenges.

The political wisdom says a politician must use the situation to the best of his abilities. Hence, the Congress has exploited the disenchantment of the masses to the best of its ability and fed on the ignorance of the people. Gandhi knows that the aam aadmi, like him, has no appetite for facts or analysis nor it believes in lengthy explanations. The common man needs off-the-shelf concepts, and few catchphrases, to describe his pent up emotions. The ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, fits the bill precisely. In this political campaign, the government hit the hustings with facts, figures and analysis and it lost audience. The Congress hit the campaign with polemic and lies and it struck an instant chord with the masses. The media, always hungry for the catchphrases, multiplied the effect.

In the post-truth politics, what matters more is perception and catchphrases do wonderful jobs in shaping perception. It may be a lie or bullshit is another matter. Politics, anyway, is never about teaching the truth. Nor it’s about accountability. Misleading the masses is intelligent so long it fetches votes. And, Gandhi needs votes. 

So, you thought ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ is a sheer bullshit. But then you thought of university economics. For politics, ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ is an intelligent theorem. It fetches votes. As I said earlier, economics is the best means to harness politics. Hence, no wonder if the ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ catchphrase enables the Congress and its new chief recover some of the lost grounds in Gujarat.

KrishnaKumar@ThoughtPourri, 2017

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