2017 Gujarat election is a watershed in electoral politics of India . Not just because BJP under Modi , an admired son of Gujarat , won comfortably . In fact , a win in Gujarat was never in question , it was the margin that really was something that was hotly debated .
Bucking the anti-incumbency , combating the agitating Patidars , overcoming the DeMo and GST issue and many such ticklish issues , the BJP had it’s task cutout . But the outcome clearly suggests that the BJP election machinery wasn’t sanguine in the face of such onerous odds . Vote share steadfast in BJP’s favour must be ringing the alarm bells in the Opposition camp.
What went wrong for the Congress ? Well , many factors contributed to the derailment of a supposedly well laid out strategy to defeat Modi on his home turf.
Modi is a demigod in Gujarat . Congress committed a blunder by personally targeting him . Quite late in the day they realised the extent of the counterproductivess . By then the damage had been done . The first phase commenced with Modi at his vitriolic best . In the groove , just in time .
Rahul’s campaign had an auspicious start literally . The newfound love for the Hindu gods did not just surprise the Hindus , it confounded even the Gods . That he is indeed a ‘Jeneau dhaari Brahman’ – mind you the Congress produced photographic proof to reinforce their ‘Jeneau’ claims – was an eye-opener . A first for Congress that was always seen to hobnob with minorities allured by their en-bloc voting capacity . Hindus never mattered to them then . In all probability the Hindu faith of the Congress Supremo may well end-up in cold storage hereafter .
Reminiscent of the Titanic , the smooth sail of Rahul’s ship was interrupted by rough weather . His bevy of leaders , gems in the crown of the dynasty , started rocking the boat , mildly at first , then quite violently leaving the then ‘Captain-to-be’ with a sinking feeling .
Shehzad Poonawala was the first to fire a salvo questioning democratic process in the Congress party . The dynasty stood exposed . The very people who in 2014 were hankering about Modi’s elevation over the heads of other senior functionaries are the ones who are applauding Rahul’s election as President of the Congress party with nary a whimper from senior Congressmen .
Youth Congress meme about ‘Chai bech’ turned the tide against Rahul giving Modi a much needed opening to connect emotionally with his supporters and fence-sitters . Coming just before the first phase , this was godsend for the BJP .
The right honourable Kapil Sibal tied himself in knots that left Congress in a tight spot . Denying vehemently that he ever appeared on behalf of Wakf in the Ramjanmabhoomi litigation , the upholder of law was proved to be lying through his teeth shamelessly.
Then came the body blow . Mani Shankar Iyer’s penchant for chaste Hindi beratement of Modi torpedoed Rahul’s rocking boat to a point of no repair . The word ‘Neech’ , in an instant , became the word of ‘Gujarat elections’.
The Nizami’s , the Raj Babbar’s , Surjewala’s did their little bit to punch holes in congresses tottering boat . And , conspiracy or not , the hush-hush meeting between Manmohan Singh & Co., with the Pakistan envoy at Mani Shankar Iyer’s residence (of all the places in the world , fate made them meet at Iyer’s residence )wasploited by Modi to show Congress in poor light . Deservedly so , because it’s foolhardy for people of the eminence of Manmohan Singh to indulge in secret (that which is not in the public domain will obviously be called secret) confabulations with a tyrant like Pakistan . Further , Congress committed harakiri when Anand Sharma initially denied that the meeting ever took place , only to retract later .
Unpleasant as it were, the negativity that pervaded the electioneering in Gujarat is a dark chapter in Indian electoral history . The meta-narrative of both the gladiators was about everything else other than the development of the state . The vision for betterment of the state and its citizens was never part of the campaign discourse .
Having said that , it must be added that it was foolhardy of Congress to castigate Modi for running a negative campaign . With a developed Gujarat ( in comparison to rest of India ) as a medal on his lapel Modi could afford to just focus on taking potshots at his opponents and not talk much about anything else.
The onus was on Rahul and Congress to erect a narrative that could take-on Modi . But Rahul chose to question Vikas in Gujarat , coming in the backdrop of abject conditions in Amithi & Rai Bareilly his rhetoric sounded hollow and stood rejected by Gujaratis .
The burden to run a positive campaign was on Rahul but he squandered the opportunity with his temple theatrics . That he underestimated the umbilical connect that Modi has with the people of Gujarat shows that Rahul hasn’t done his homework thoroughly .
“The stroll with his finger up hurt the Congress where it hurts (no pun intended) , the uphill climb to 2019 gets steeper”.
Picture Credit: Rishabh’s Lens