Contrasting Poll Results | Gujarat Holds Modi Magic

Contrasting Poll Results | Gujarat Holds Modi Magic
Contrasting Poll Results | Gujarat Holds Modi Magic

The recent Assembly elections’ results are a bit puzzling. The BJP’s landslide victory in Gujarat but losing Himachal Pradesh to Congress and its power in Municipal Corporation of Delhi to AAP. However, there is certainty on one front– the image of Prime Minister Modi, possibly more than that of BJP, stands tall. There can be no denying that his appeal remains unchallenged despite many shortcomings of the Central government, especially on the economic front.

The Congress, which largely focussed on bread-and-butter issues won in Himachal Pradesh, but it was decimated in Gujarat with its vote share dropping by about 14 percent. It was indeed surprising that neither the sufferings of the pandemic influenced the electorate nor even the promise of the Congress party offering a compensation of Rs 4 lakh per victim. And while people are unhappy with the general price rise, especially that of cooking gas cylinders and petrol, the Congress couldn’t encash on it. Its seats went down from 77 to 17 presently, and BJP grew stronger.

This time, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) appears to be the biggest beneficiary. It opened its account in Modi’s State but only time will tell whether it can emerge as a force in Gujarat in the coming years. It did cut into the votes of the Congress, but that the grand old party would have such a disastrous result, despite its traditional vote base of tribals and Muslims in the districts of south and east Gujarat of the Narmada and Tapi river belt, is difficult to fathom.

The seriousness of the campaign by Modi, who took time off to address no less than 31 rallies and undertook major road shows in Ahmedabad and Surat, while his Home Minister Amit Shah camped for days in the State is demonstration enough of how seriously the BJP took the polls, despite reports that its rule would continue. On the other hand, this seriousness was not quite manifest in the Congress, and it seems to have expected a poor show.

Questions are thus bound to arise about the efficacy of the standard of campaigning of the Congress, the appeal to the voters at the grass-root level, the methodology of exposing the communal tendencies of the BJP and its total failure to uplift the condition of the masses. There were lacunae in these areas, but it appears that social and economic issues and failures cannot possibly unseat a government by a half-educated electorate.

Additionally, organisational muscle, which includes financial resources, as also the leadership potential are important factors in winning elections. The obvious reason is that the electorate may be literate but not educated enough to weigh the pros and cons of the deteriorating economic and social situation in the country. Plus, the Congress did not have an able leader in the state and the organisational structure remained quite weak.

Delving into the problem, it needs to be stated that less educated people are swayed by the hype which Modi has been generating in terms of technology in education, industrial development and the constructions of flyovers and highways though these hardly benefit the masses. Heavy industries do not generate sufficient employment, while agriculture in Gujarat is not quite in healthy state.

Some analysts talk of the Gujarat model of development but our understanding of this is centred on growth, not real or inclusive development. That is the reason why the cities are prospering compared to the villages, the rich and the upper middle class becoming prosperous and the gap between the rich and the poor growing. However, it goes to the credit of Modi for ending the state’s water crisis in Saurashtra, which benefitted the common man. Also reports indicate that every Gujarat household now gets piped water.

Fighting elections and choosing the right issues appears to be the forte of the BJP. And what helps is that it has all along been a centralised party with local leaders not given the same importance. Though it is a cadre-based party, decisions are taken at the Delhi headquarters by the core group, headed by Modi. This has been a long trend in Indian politics since the time of Indira Gandhi and the BJP has followed this scrupulously. But it doesn’t seem to work for the Congress anymore.

However, Himachal Pradesh has exemplified the limits of Modi’s ability to single handedly win elections. It is true that the State only reinforced a trend of throwing out incumbents as has been the case in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand. Though Modi sought to woo the voters by showcasing himself rather than the local candidates, the anti-incumbency wave got precedence. But a big factor, which may have not got the attention it deserved was that as many as 21 BJP rebels contested the polls as Independents and spoilt the party’s chances of emerging victorious. Moreover,it’s being said that Congress’ Priyanka Gandhi presence this time, unlike in western UP, did make an impact among women voters and those from lower castes.

On AAP’s front, while it awaits bagging the status of a national party having opened its account in Gujarat, its historic win in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi polls, dislodging the BJP and with it the Modi’s popular image, is a reason to be elated. Undoubtedly, Arvind Kejriwal has turned out to be a leader who has the ability of understanding the needs and demands of the common man and delivering, which makes a vital difference to their lives. Given the fact that it is already ruling in Delhi, there are expectations that the ‘double-engine’ government will improve the life of citizens in the national capital, provided given a free hand.

Finally, the coming year is crucial for political parties as elections are due in three Hindi belt States along with Karnataka. Some analysts are talking of a combined opposition with Congress giving the leadership. But the problem is that the acceptability of Rahul Gandhi as the leader of a united front, if he so chooses, may be somewhat difficult at this point. The new Congress President Khargehas a responsibility to seriously try and forge unity and fight elections jointly. And while a section of analysts may dismiss the Bharat Jodo Yatra as inconsequential, it can’t be denied that it just might have the potential of resurrecting the Congress’ fortunes in the long run. The yatra has on the one hand spread the message of countering the politics of hate and division, and on the other, reached out to the masses. In the Gandhian spirit!

The focus of the ruling dispensation of playing with the religious sentiment of the masses has, no doubt, paid dividends for the BJP. Meanwhile, reports suggest that work around the grand Ram mandir in Ayodhya is progressing fast and should be ready before the big election of 2024, the timing of which should pay dividends. Moreover, Modi’s appeal or claim of providing a sense of security and stability to the voters appears to be going in favour of the BJP

With caste-class and religion playing a big role in present-day elections, it’s about time the Congress weaves a new framework based on societal consolidation, economic recovery and spread the same among subaltern communities. It exuberates confidence that Rahul’s yatra,touching on the masses’ problems and calling for transformation of the socio-economic order, will yield dividends in the coming year. The Himachal result has given it this confidence. Whether it will percolate down to results is anybody’s guess, but a resurrection is a big challenge. A bigger one being of countering the Modi magic. —INFA



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Contrasting Poll Results | Gujarat Holds Modi Magic