Gujarat is a state well-known for its expertise in the diamond and apparel industry. It is one of the most favorable states for setting up an industry. It is the state which our present-PM has ruled for more than a dozen years. In my opinion, he strengthened the social fabric, never hesitated in taking tough decisions, and was always reachable to the secretaries of various departments, party workers, industry leaders and the intellectuals of the society, and through collaboration with all of these sections, had always addressed the concern of the common people. To sum it up briefly, this is the major reason why even after putting in so much effort, Congress and its allies could not win the mandate of Gujarat.
There are many takeaways from the 2017 Gujarat Assembly elections. To understand the whole thing and the various decisions taken by the concerned stakeholders – and specially the role of Narendra Modi- we should start from September 2013, when Modi was announced as the BJP PM candidate for the 2014 general elections.
Even after the busy and hectic schedule of election campaign, he barely stayed in any other state. He did not let the state’s administrative process be crippled. In short, we can say that he did not let go of his command of Gujarat till May 2014.
After the victory of the BJP, he addressed a massive gathering in Vadodara, thanked the voters for the love that they had shown him and gave a message that he is not going to leave the state no matter what comes in the way.
Anandiben Patel was elected the CM after Modi and it was also a decision he had cautiously taken. It can easily be estimated that the Modi-Shah duo had estimated possible outrage from the Patel community. When Anandiben failed to contain the outrage, the Central government sent in paramilitary force and requested the army to be on stand by during the Patel agitation.
It was the Modi-Shah duo’s understanding of Gujarat that allowed them to take the decision to send in the troops without requesting the state administration. As a result, the kind of violence that was seen in Rohtak during the Jat agitation was prevented. Regardless of media coverage, common people do think and assess issues on their own.
It was the discussion in the political and media establishments that Anandiben was not co-operating with center to the extent Modi-Shah was expecting. Moreover she had a significant intervention of her kins in the governance. Soon after the control of aggressive agitation, she was asked to leave the chair and and finally after the telephonic intervention of PM Modi, Vijay Rupani was elected the CM of Gujrat. From the day one, Vijay Rupani has collaborated very well with center and has been awarded also by getting the CM chair reserved for 5 years.
While there was Rohit Vemula issue and soon after the Una incident happened, the opposition was showing outrage and everyone was trying to reach there and meet the victims, BJP fielded its Dalit face in front of media to counter the attacks of opposition and to assure the community for their security and address their concern as well. It helped BJP to contain the dissatisfaction of Dalits by and large.
After the Demonetization and implementation of GST also there was a significant anger in the industry leaders and a large population, dependent on the daily wage for their livelihood. Opposition was busy in making the rhetoric to take the demonetization back. They never suggested any better possible approach of its implementation that might have reduced the ruckus in the society, except that “more time should have been given for its planning”.
GST has been implemented with a very clear cut approach and with the active participation of all the states. Over and above, the concerns of states have been addressed well too. In GST also, opposition continued to criticize it with a brand new vocabulary but at the same time PM was ready to take the full responsibility of GST and conveyed in very convincing manner that all the concerns of the industry will be addressed. This assurance was supported by some of the decisions taken by the “Council of Ministers”.
We have seen it over the time that till the time political parties do not talk on the base of facts to suggest a way out over an issue which are under the framework of constitution, it remains a political rhetoric and easily get countered by political rhetoric itself.
If we consider all these issues, the opposition was nowhere constructive. These four incidents had the potency to snatch the government from the hands of BJP but the opposition failed to do so.
BJP was very cautious from the time Patel agitation started. They had got the sense that BJP is going to loose, if not the significant then definitely a marginal vote share of Patel community for sure. They had also the sense of consolidation of Anti-BJP vote share, so BJP had started their outreach, either at its own or through RSS cadre, to patidars as well as OBC and tribal belt areas too and have done significantly well in these areas.
If we look at the planning and preparations by congress party, we can easily figure out that congress has not trusted its cadre at the extent that it should have. There was no motivation to the cadre from the central leadership. This party cadre was managed, monitored and motivated only by the local leaders. Central leadership was only focused and busy in taking the “media darlings” in their side. If the central leadership would have constructed a module in Delhi to actively engage with cadre then the result might have been different. I am saying this on the psychological phenomenon that if the cadre is working for you even when you are loosing and when the time came for cadre to get the fruit of their hard-work, you completely outsource your election, in this condition their shoulder gets down.
If we look at the planning and preparations by BJP, the most important aspect was that they had planned all the development schemes which can be inaugurated in the elective season. We have witnessed it from the inauguration of Sardar Sarovar Dam to the commissioning of INS Kalvari. Due to this even if the leaders were getting distracted from the issue of development, these schemes were there to suggest their “pro-development” image. By June 2017 BJP had “completed” its booth committees (a Committee consists of 21 members). These were sub divided into panna pramukhs(page in charge) of a 48 voters in a particular constituency. A total of 7,500 people were deployed for this and, according to Madhya Pradesh minister Narottam Mishra who had been in charge of 26 seats in Saurashtra, BJP Chief Amit Shah spoke to each of these panna pramukhs. “For the party’s national president to call and speak personally to a panna pramukh is a big deal,” he told The Hindu. This kept party workers in fighting form. It was one of the micro managements of Amit Shah because BJP had estimated that Saurashtra region can make a significant impact for party and it reflected the same in results also. The consolidation of Anti-BJP votes is the biggest reason for congress winning seats in this region.
Local leaders of BJP were not giving any chance for media outrage. PM Modi was frequently going to Gujrat, which kept him contextual as well. His visits continue to work as antibiotics against any infection to the vote-share of BJP. At the end of the day, the seats may have decreased but the vote-share was 49.85%. It is a significant figure if we take the possible anti-incumbency factor into account.
Now lets have a look at the election campaign of congress and BJP. Congress was heavily relying upon the central leadership. The local leadership those were there in the office, they were only darling to media but not to the mass of state, which reflects in their defeat also. So the effective local representation in election campaign was on the shoulder of Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mewani and Alpesh Thakor. While if we look at the BJP, PM Modi and Amit Shah had started delivering their speech in Gujrati and even after being from the central leadership they retained the image of local. Learning from the mistakes of Bihar and Delhi, BJP has come far away and now they only give the tadka of central leadership in election campaign but local leadership has all in their hand to do and perform. BJP figured out this formula from Assam election and have mastered it from then after.
If we look at the developments of election campaign, it seems congress was not serious to win the election and form the government. They were only interested to fight and win as many seats as they can. They had no preparation of campaign. In Bihar election BJP made the issue of electricity a big cry but on ground level Nitish had worked well on this front, so their this rhetoric got countered easily by the common people itself. In UP BJP never targeted the expressway and river front, they targeted the corruption in the project on the facts and data. But in the election campaign of Gujrat congress targeted the very development and schemes on which common Gujrati feels proud. Congress got to understand it very soon and refrained from this rhetoric then after. But it gave state wide rhetoric to BJP to paint congress as anti-development.
Congress had the upper hand till 16 days of voting, when PM Modi started the campaign. The election campaign or the advertisement of any product also relies upon the taglines. The lines which are potent enough to convey a message, which is not hurting any sentiments, correct on the grounds of facts, can connect to the mass and stick on their mouth easily. Rahul Gandhi tried few but fall flat because it were all negative and not correct on the grounds of fact. Either it be Vikash Gandi Thayo Chhe of it be Gabbar Singh Tax but PM Modi’s Ockee comment on congress was nowhere negative, totally sarcastic, contextual and it energized the cadre as well. PM Modi used the identity attack as very effective and earlier used weapon. BJP outlined the duality of congress party in visiting temples but asking Supreme Court to suspend the hearing. The show of sea plane was also very effective in consolidating the vote share. It was planned in such a less time that opposition could not get the correct narrative to counter it. Till the time the correct statistics of its earlier use came in media, the vote was already casted.
Now lets understand the statistics of voting.
From a long back, Congress has been doing well in the rural area of Gujarat. The state has 101 constituency which have less than 30% urban population largely having a rural character.
Even in this rural belt, the BJP has made a gain of 1% votes over 2012 by polling 44.5%, which is marginally less than the Congress’s 45.9% vote share. But this lead converted into 63 seats for the Congress and its allies while BJP could win just 36 seats, which ultimately made the difference.
As I told earlier that after the calculation of Patel agitation BJP had started its outreach to other community, among those one is tribal. Gujarat has total of 14% tribal population and 31 constituencies are there where tribes account for more than 30% electoral. These 31 constituencies are a good indicator of the tribal mood. BJP was slightly behind Congress in this area in 2012 as they had polled 42.9% and 43.8% votes respectively. In 2017, BJPs’ vote share jumped to 47.4%, cantering past Congress’s 44.5% by 2.9 percentage points. Though in terms of seats, both Congress and BJP retained its 2012 tally by winning 16 and 14 seats each.
It is also important to note that 21 seats have been decided by very narrow margins in favour of the Congress party because it has won seven seats by less than 1% and 14 seats by 1% to 5% vote margin. Thus, if we look at BJP’s historical weakness in rural pockets, BJP’s performance is not irreconcilable, although it has to be mindful of the fact that a united opposition can pose a challenge if agrarian concerns are not addressed.
The verdict of Gujrat has the message to let the Government be in the hands of BJP, which is more focused on development and has a cleaner hands on governanace, when compared with other parties but at the same time to strengthen the opposition as well.