Though Himachal and Gujarat went for elections together, Gujarat was in the national focus for obvious reasons. By retaining Gujarat and trouncing Congress in Himachal, in both the states with more than 49 percentage of vote share, the Modi-led BJP continued its winning streak. But the mandate of this election has a message for everyone, including the BJP
The BJP once again proved the mettle in electoral politics by winning both the electoral battles of Gujarat and Himachal. On ideological and strategic level this election was unique on many counts. First of all, Congress abandoned the plank of ‘secularism’ from the word go and throughout the campaign there was no mention of ‘post-Godhra’ riots. Rahul Gandhi’s Temple trotting and creation of ‘Hindu’ image was already seen as the victory of Hindutva. On the other hand, consolidation of casteist, Communists of all shades, Church, Muslim fundamentalists and NGOs etc on behalf of Congress made this election bipolar in real sense.
The BJP, which was an underdog and untouchable in Indian politics almost two decades ago, is now perceived to be so strong that fewer seats than the previous election are considered as a disaster. The Congress, which ruled India for almost 50 years, is perceived to be such a weakling that a gain of few seats in defeat is considered a remarkable performance. Rahul Gandhi, who has been in politics for two decades and has become destined to be the President of the Congress, is considered as a weird politician that if he campaigns in one election seriously, it is considered an achievement! That he certainly achieved in Gujarat, making an initially complacent BJP go for a whirlwind campaign. The tactical use of cast politics of Hardik – Jignesh – Alpesh and Co. by the Congress, the anti-incumbency factor, the transient phase of the trouble which a section of society faced in the process of big reform of GST, all these points mounted up to create a challenge for the BJP. A section of media eager to defend the fiefdom of Gandhi family went into overdrive to paint the end of BJP rule in Gujarat.
In such a scenario, a dispassionate analysis of facts becomes scarce. But the same analysis shows that the Indian democracy has now matured enough so that people are able to give a distinct message to each contestant party and candidate.
The trend over-past few years is rather consistent with BJP retaining 48-49 % votes, which is a dream figure for any party in an essentially multi-party democracy. The Congress retains 38-39% votes which showed an increase of about 2% this year, crossing the 40% mark first time after 1990. As compared to vote share, the figure of the number of seats won seems to have favoured the Congress. While the Congress increased its vote share by 2%, the seats have increased from 61 in 2012 to 77, a substantial gain of 16 seats or 26% more than 2012.
There seems to be a significant loss to BJP in SC and ST segments. In 2012, BJP has won 10 out of 13 seats reserved for SC candidates. In 2017, it won only 7 of them, losing three to Congress. Of the 28 seats reserved for ST candidates, BJP won 16 in 2012. The tally reduced to 10 seats in 2017. It is more significant because if this was the trend that the drifting away of SC voters might have affected the fortune of BJP candidates in general category also, who lost by a narrow margin, as the BJP has lost 11 seats by a margin of less than 3,000 votes. The retention of hold in the urban area has helped BJP nullifying the effect of Hardik Patel-led agitation.
One of the less highlighted facts of the results is the heavy exchange of seats between Congress and BJP. BJP lost 33 seats to Congress from its 2012 tally while Congress lost 18 of its 2012 seats to BJP. Together almost 1/3 MLAs of 2012 were defeated in 2017 indicating a strong local
People have a Message
It is really remarkable that people have given a strong message to every concerned party and person in this verdict. Congress has played the dangerous game of caste politics by hobnobbing with Hardik-Alpesh-Jignesh trio. People seem to have rejected it to a large extent. And even if it has given them some limited advantage, it is a double-edged sword. To harp on caste-based divisions for small time gains is short-sighted politics. Add to it the loss of Himachal Pradesh whose election was completely overshadowed by Gujarat, and Congress seems to continue its losing spree and will have to come out of sycophancy to achieve a real comeback.
The BJP has achieved a miracle in last 3-4 years in Indian politics. The change in Opposition cry “They cannot win by doing Hindu politics” to “They win because of Hindu politics” indicates a major shift in Indian political scenario. But perhaps this election is the first signal that they will have to listen to the voice of every segment of Hindu society. The voice which expresses the aspirations of people and reactions to the massive changes which the Modi Government is bringing in all fields of governance needs to be heard. The shift of SC ST vote, the party presence which diminishes as we go from urban to rural areas, as was shown in the recent Uttar Pradesh local body elections also, needs to be addressed seriously. These takeaways are more significant considering next year’s election schedule where more BJP-ruled states are in the queue.
(News Bharati with Organiser Bureau)