Elections are a dicey affair. In a pluralistic democracy like India, it is even tougher to predict the accurate outcome, especially when the body politic is mercurial and has the tendency to change their voting decisions at the last minute. In fact, psephologists are a spent force in such scenarios. The triple-digit figures conferred by various opinion polls on the BJP in the run-up to Gujarat elections is a testimony to this fact.
Whether psephologists go by the popular wave, or have some realistic data in hand before spewing their occasionally-accurate projections, is a grey area that shall remain unattended for good. Conversely, a Himachal Pradesh-like situation is a one-off affair that alternates between the best parties after every five years. Here too, the predictions of psephologists often make no sense at all.
Belied by the euphoria of these projections several times, it’s now time to go into the real issues that force people to change their voting decisions or shift their loyalty to the best available alternatives.
The resurgence of the Congress in the BJP’s stronghold is no coincidence. Despite losing the Assembly elections, the Congress has shown their best performance in Gujarat after decades, against the backdrop of Rahul Gandhi’s recent elevation to the position of the party chief. And even though it may be ruling in as many as 19 Indian states, the BJP has some lessons to learn from the outcome of the Gujarat polls – so far as the sustainability of their invincibility factor is concerned.
The Modi-Shah duo seems to be rather passé – the BJP capitalising on their charisma in the long run can prove to be a blunder. Even though the Goliath Modi continues to be the popular choice of the people, the fact that the BJP struggled hard to defend itself in its own citadel is a sign of growing anti-incumbency that couldn’t turn the tables around this time.
The Congress winning in rural Gujarat bears testimony to the fact that the farmers’ distress is real. The resurgent party has tapped well into the gap laid bare by the BJP, which ruled the state for 22 years. In my opinion, if the Congress had put up a Gujarati face as its chief ministerial candidate, both the urban and rural areas would probably have shown a much different result – in the favour of the Congress, to say the least. Furthermore, strengthened by the Patidar factor, the RaGa-led Congress has now emerged as an alternative, should the ruling party ever fail to meet the expectations of the masses in the near future.
According to me, the thin line between Hinduvta and Hinduism is now clearer with many Hindus voting against the Hinduvta force, and the Muslim population also joining the Congress’ ranks in the state.
The 2019 poll bugle is yet to be sounded, but the impact of the BJP’s fallacies is visible on the ground. The last-minute electioneering might have worked in their own rajya, but this can be a worn-out tactic in due course of time. In that context, the BJP needs to prioritise dealing with issues on the ground, particularly in the rural belt, despite their sixth consecutive win on the back of economic reforms that are expected to bring gains in the long term.
The upcoming elections in states like Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have rural commonalities that may prove another leg-up for the Congress in the course of their revival. Beware!