The Gujarat election results were declared a while back. The BJP ended up forming the government, while the Congress bit the dust. Similar results have come in Himachal Pradesh elections as well but the Gujarat elections are important for a very significant reason which we shall see soon. Now, before we get to the reason, let’s have a look at the results.
Compared to 2012, the BJP has lost 16 seats and the Congress has gained 16 seats. This was after Congress’ dismal performance of a total of 44 seats in the 2014 general elections and consistently losing assembly elections, barring Punjab with a forgettable performance in Uttar Pradesh. So, from that perspective, Congress did marginally well in a state which was the role model for catapulting BJP to power in the 2014 general elections.
And, as the rule book says, we witnessed the usual mudslinging from the usual suspects. However, this Gujarat election was somehow different. The year 2002 had changed the historical landscape of politics in Gujarat and India and the communal equations were re-written. There was an insurgence of an intellectual narrative, mostly fueled by the left wingers, that sought to establish the existence of a “Hindu Terror” in order to crucify BJP and impede its progress. And the BJP did pay the price of it in 2004 and 2009 general elections. It took 12 years for the amnesia to set in, and in 2014, the landscape changed once again with the rise of BJP under Narendra Modi at the center.
And now, 15 years after Godhra, the Gujarat elections campaigns witnessed a heightened frenzy of communal politics. So, while Modi resorted to Muslim appeasement by bringing in the “Triple Talaq Reforms” and hailing the same as a recognition of the right to dignity for Muslim women, the Congress, on the other hand, played the Hindu card as Rahul Gandhi visited temples and he being a “Janeu-Dhari-Bhrahman” being touted by the dynastic party.
So, while the BJP celebrates actual victory and forms the sixth consecutive government in the State, the Congress also basks in glory as it consolidates its position and improves its performance. But there is one silent player, or rather a group of players, not so organised, but highly orchestrated and naturally aligned which has sent across a powerful message to the leadership of both – the BJP & the Congress.
A whopping half a million i.e. five hundred thousand traders of Gujarat have opted for the NOTA option as they express their displeasure at the communal politics being played by both the mammoths while sidelining the interests of the vibrant business community of Gujarat bordering on apathy.
This choice by the business community clearly indicates the lack of trust by the businessmen on the existing political leadership which shamelessly indulges in keeping the people busy in religious and cultural issues and does little for infrastructure development, ease of business, civic amenities, employment, encourage of entrepreneurship.
Even though, the Modi Govt. launched a lot of flagship schemes like “Swacch Bharat”, “Make in India” etc., but they are also mere marketing tools without achieving much at hand. And there have been many economic blunders done by the Govt. like the Demonetization, restrictions on withdrawal of PF (which was rescinded ultimately but not before it took a bite at the credibility of Modi Sarkar).
Even GST did not bring in the revolutionary changes that it was projected to bring, rather, prices inflated after GST as everyone got a very convenient excuse to increase prices saying “Ab to GST aa gaya hai” (Now that GST has come). Even though, none of the above mentioned changes were specific to Gujarat, but the fact that the State and the Center had the same party at helms, it definitely did not work in favor of BJP which needs some serious introspection.
At the end of the day, whether we have a temple or a mosque built, but if economy is in tatters, business is not easy to do, jobs are not getting generated then progress won’t be visible and the standard of living of people won’t improve. Temples or mosques do not eradicate poverty or improve health care. They just act as a feel good factor without any tangible output in the interest of human issues.
And the traders of Gujarat have sent out a strong message, a collective voice of 500,000 voters rejecting the entire political leadership. And even now, if the political parties do not take a cue, then this “Gujarat Model” will repeat itself and that won’t be healthy for the country, the political atmosphere or the economy.
Celebrating marginal victories and deteriorating triumphs won’t help sustain for long. Both BJP and Congress need to pay heed to the clairvoyance of the vibrant business community which effectively sent out a silent but strong message exercising one of the most fundamental constitutional right. And they need to pay heed to it instead of bursting crackers and distributing sweets over superficial and hollow victories.
This warning signal, if ignored, will lead to more unstable India in future. Are we ready for that?
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