Unnoticed Facets Of The Gujarat And Himachal Election Results

Posted by Saurav Kumar in Politics
December 21, 2017

The much awaited moment of election results has come up with some significant clues, which can be a decisive factor for the upcoming electoral exams in Indian politics.

Let us recapitulate a few unnoticed points from the two states of Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. The BJP has managed to grab power in both the states, but that should not be considered as a landslide victory, when its most popular face, Narendra Modi himself had hit roads for several rallies.

In Gujarat, after a long time, the electoral battle was a real ‘Kaatein ki takkar’ (equal fight). The reason lies in the seat count and vote share of the two major parties since the last assembly elections. In terms of seat count, the BJP lost 16 seats in comparison to 2012 with a minimal increase of 1.1% in the vote share, whereas the INC gained 19 seats with a marginal 2.4 % increase in vote share.

The 10% loss of BJP’s vote share in Gujarat, compared to 2014 shows, how their policies and performance are being resented by those who had supported them earlier. This resentment will only grow in the days to come.

One cannot say that this was a landslide victory for the BJP. Rather, it was a desperate face-saving attempt. On the other hand, the INC had improved in statistics of seats, but it trailed due to the following factors-

  1. The BJP’s election machinery takes the upper hand over all existing parties. Apart from the BJP cadres, it has the added strength of Hindutva organizations like Hindu Mahasabha, Sri Ram Sena, Bajrang Dal and most importantly, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, whereas the INC’s organizational strength cannot practically match its networking.
  2. Overconfidence about forming the government was short-sighted on the INC’s part. The reason behind this according to me is that in a democracy, incremental upgradation is an important factor. For the last two assembly elections, the INC gave a cake walk to the BJP, and suddenly it decided to dislodge the BJP with an intense web-like network among the masses. The same was seen during the Punjab assembly elections in the case of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). From a naïve political organization, they assumed that it was easily possible to form the government, averting role of an opposition party. Unemployment, malnutrition and caste-based violence were issues that were not adequately emphasized on in Gujarat.
  3. Urban Gujarat continues to be the citadel of the BJP. The state’s demography continues to be an advantage of the saffron party. The BJP won 16/21 seats in Ahmedabad, 8/10 in Baroda, 15/16 in Surat and 6/8 in Rajkot. So 45 out of 55 seats in the four urban centres, paved half the way towards a majority. The BJP however, didn’t perform exceptionally well in rural Gujarat.
  4. The credibility of the election commission has also been undermined and is questionable, as was evident with the delay in announcing the dates for polling and its inaction over the Prime Minister’s roadshow. This proves the puppet image of Election Commission of India.
  5. In at least 28 constituencies, NOTA got a higher share of votes than the victory margin of the winning candidate. The five lakh people in Gujarat did not find hope in the INC or the BJP, which is not a healthy sign for the policies and politics of both parties. The dissatisfaction is clearly visible among people, which is an indication towards a demand for a political alternative in the state.
  6. Caste-based violence and discrimination in Gujarat have gotten a big jolt in the form of Jignesh Mevani. The agitation led by him in 2016, has now taken shape in power politics. Muslims, Adivasis and Dalits have gotten a hope in Jignesh Mevani. This victory is proof that people want to reject the hate politics of BJP-RSS. The nation needs a subaltern narrative that can articulate and assert itself, and Jignesh’s win is a small but significant triumph in this direction.
  7. Amit Shah’s arrogance and bluster have been rejected in these elections. For a party boasting of being able to capture 150+ seats, it has been reduced to double digits. The result is a wake-up call for the BJP. The BJP continues to be the frontrunner, but the 2019 Lok Sabha elections cannot be a cakewalk, if a united opposition with a concrete narrative, can give the saffron behemoth a straight fight.

On the other hand, in Himachal Pradesh, the power change was cyclical in nature. Now the BJP is back in power with a clear majority. But still few reasons played a decisive role.

  1. The INC’s anti-incumbency rule made the BJP a clear choice for the people. But the defeat of the CM candidate of BJP, Prem Dhumal and the State President of BJP, raises an eyebrow towards the credibility of BJP’s way of politics.
  2. The CM of the state has been tainted with many corruption charges which made people lose trust in his leadership, and the victory slipped from the Congress’ hands.
  3. Degrading law and order became a concern for people. The Shimla gangrape and murder case that rocked the hilly state on July 4, 2017, saw students, locals and the opposition political parties came out in protest against the government and police authorities.
  4. The BJP won elections, but people rejected the saffron party’s entire top leadership, including the chief ministerial candidate.
  5. The nepotism undertaken by both the INC and the BJP is a serious question. The teacher’s recruitment scandal is an example. The party has a list of such candidates who are favourites either of BJP or INC. But this issue was sidelined.

Though BJP made numerous promises during 2014 Lok Sabha elections which are yet to see daylight, among them one was to steeply hike import duty on apples to protect the local apple orchards. But now more than three lakh ton of apples are being imported from US, China and New Zealand. People of the hill state are still trapped with no political alternative – with an exception.

A Surprise Red Spring

The Theog seat of Himachal opted for a reliable change, in the form of Rakesh Singha, a Kisan leader and known voice for farmers from the platform of Himachal Kisan Union. The CPI (M) has always had some presence in the Himalayan state, though mostly restricted to Shimla.

In 2012, it had won both the mayor and deputy mayor posts in the Shimla municipality. This being the apple belt of Himachal, both demonetization and goods and services tax (GST) were important poll points as traders had to suffer. Rakesh Singha has led the struggle of the workers at the Wangtoo Karcham hydroelectric project built by the Jaypee Company at Kinnaur. He has been firm to act against the ill politics of both BJP and INC in Himachal. The youthful presence of the student wing of the party, the Student Federation of India, in Theog, along with the continued struggle of the working class, collectively resulted in the reposition of faith by the people.

With these elections, one point is clear – that if a political alternative with a vision of social justice, inclusive policies and honest governance (in the form of Rakesh Singha and Jignesh Mevani) is put forward, the divisive ill politics of the two national parties can be challenged and replaced

Threat To The Idea Of India

These results pose a big concern for us. Mr Modi has used populism, nationalism and anti-secularism to great effect and fired up the imagination of millions looking for instant progress and national greatness. The RSS’s agenda is not just politics for the usual business of governance and economic development. Those are means towards the ultimate goal, a higher aspiration, which is to build a Hindu Rashtra. Clearly, a Hindu Rashtra is incompatible with India’s Constitution and its democratic norms. By assuming power in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, the BJP has become a force to amend and hurt principles of a secular, sovereign, socialist, democratic, Republic of India. The opposition must realize this threat, and build its own strategy, complete with an ideological narrative that can resonate with most Indians to save the foundations of the nation.