Elections, the festival of democracy, as they say, has ended in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh with the BJP winning both states.
While in Himachal Pradesh, the exit-polls, opinion polls and the past trends had forecasted a BJP victory, the electorate of Gujarat was much more enigmatic to decipher. But, at the end of the day, the people of Gujarat voted the BJP to power once again, albeit through a thinner majority vis-à-vis the last assembly polls.
Gujarat is a different state as compared to the other states of India. In my opinion, while in most other parts of India, people aspire to get a job in the government sector, Gujarati people prefer to be self-employed. Obviously, this is not true for the entire state, but the minds of Gujaratis are more business-oriented, and they are more likely to opt for entrepreneurship, as compared to other parts of India.
In the 2014 general elections, Gujarat voted overwhelmingly in favour of the BJP and all the Lok Sabha seats from the state were captured by the BJP. But, this time, the trend seems to have reversed. Although the BJP won the elections, there was a significant reduction in the seats it held, vis a vis the previous assembly elections
There are two contradictory analysis that could be forged from the results. The one that may suit the narrative of the BJP and its supporters is that, despite all the inconveniences caused by demonetization, the shoddy implementation of GST, the botched-up governance after the Modi era, the Indian National Congress failed to outsmart the BJP. The Patidar agitation, the propelling up of new equations by bringing the likes of Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakur in its fold, the conscientious use of social media and the resuscitated avatar of Rahul Gandhi did not cause much harm either.
The other analysis, contradictory to the first one, and to the merriment of the Congress, is that despite the towering personality of the Prime Minister Modi, the strong roots of the organizations of B.J.P in the state, umpteen rallies of Modi-Shah duo and the absence of a credible state-level leader, the Congress was able to give a tough fight to the BJP, containing the numbers of seats in the BJP’s tally to less than 100.
While both the analyses look contradictory in a way, there is in fact, some concomitance between the two as both sum up the results in a fair and unbiased manner.
If one looks at the numbers carefully in Gujarat, the rural areas in Gujarat voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Congress, while the trend was just the opposite in urban areas, where the BJP won heavily. Rural distress is something that is an undeniable event, and the disenchantment and choler of the rural population against the BJP were manifested in their voting pattern.
It clearly indicates that the policies designed for the rural areas, be it the Rurban Mission or be it the Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance Scheme or be it any other scheme directed towards upliftment of the rural population had not trickled down in its full effect. With around 68% of India living in rural areas (Census 2011), the BJP will not want the domino effect of the rural trend of Gujarat to replicate in the other states, given that elections for Lok Sabha are not very far away.
To arrest the trend of rural Gujarat in elections, there could be more serious efforts towards distributing the share of growth in the rural areas. The upcoming budget for the year 2018-2019 could be a sweet surprise for the rural population if one eyes the elections in waiting.
On the other hand, the Congress must be exhilarated and rightly so, but they need to continue their agenda of talking policies, governance and development. Frankly speaking, rural India has nothing to do with terms like “Secularism”, “Fascism”, “Pakistan” and other fancy terms that are often used by journalists. Rural India votes for the party it thinks can provide them with adequate standards of living and can contain inflation, especially that of food and fuel. So, rural India is the real swing constituency, and the Congress can’t be complacent about its performance. It needs to talk to rural India more often.
The urban areas, the traditional stronghold of the BJP, has once again supported the saffron party. The urban areas are fundamentally called the engines of economic growth. The cities voting for B.J.P could be perceived as a stamp of approval on the policies like G.S.T and demonetization. The BJP government in the Centre will feel empowered by the cities voting in their favour, as they will be able to push through more economic reforms unhesitatingly.
The factories, businesses are in the urban areas and the one thing every business firm wants is a good law, and order situation in the region. Afterall, companies, trades and transactions thrive in peace while a region embroiled in unrest impedes the functioning of a business. The fear that a change in the government can deteriorate the law and order situation (which would, in turn, be detrimental to their interests) led the businessmen (and other citizens) who feel safe under the BJP government to come out to vote for the BJP and shun the Congress.
The Congress needs to increase its penetration and improve its image as a political party in the urban areas. This does not happen overnight, it requires honesty and determination. The urbanized India voting against the Congress should be a troublesome question for them because more and more urbanization will happen in the years to come.
The fact is that the contest was tough, and it was a wake-up call for both parties, in some way or the other. As a Congress M.P put out in his tweet, “The BJP has won, but the Congress has not lost either”. Rahul Gandhi has been coronated as the president of Indian National Congress, and it is about time that he reaches out to everyone, including the ones who disagree with him. If Rahul Gandhi wants to be really looked upon as an alternative to the Modi juggernaut, he must do something different.
He does not need a makeover of his tweets, but rather he needs a makeover of the Congress’s style of functioning. He should give more space to the young, to the dissidents, and not the sycophants who will only add more damage to his political career by cushioning his failures. He needs to listen to the people, more often, not necessarily before elections, but after elections as well. He needs out to chart a fresh agenda, with substantive and real issues that concern young India.
He also needs to ask his M.P(s) to shun the idea of disrupting Parliament, because, this costs taxpayer’s money, and in the pandemonium and loud roaring in the well of the house, the vital issues of people get drowned in the well. This creates a very wrong image of the party indulging in such inane acts. There are other ways of protest, but the Parliament needs to function.
The BJP, on the other hand, is all elated, and rightly so. At the end of the day, victory matters, and the victory cup is surely with Amit Shah. The organizational strength and election management skills of Amit Shah have been proven once again. With the BJP adding Himachal Pradesh in its kitty, there are 19 states where the BJP is in government at present.
This could mean a greater say in the Rajya Sabha and the GST Council. This will also mean that the BJP will not have the scapegoat of blaming the ills in different sectors on the Congress. They are in power across the length, and breadth of India, and any botch up of governance would cost them dearly in the Lok Sabha elections. They will have to fight massive anti-incumbency as they will fight in 2019 and the only thing that can keep the juggernaut moving is the model of development being implemented at the “ground level”.