“Vote is a matter of conscience. Do not sell it. Do not destroy it. When you vote, take a momentous decision; please do not take it just on the spur of the moment. Vote is an individual right to be exercised socially. It symbolises your freedom; use it freely. If you are a democrat, do not be dictated to by anybody but your conscience. Political parties that stand for the people also stand on the strength of the people. If the people want that nobody should bend them, the people should lend them their strength. It is the people who are the architects of political parties and, through them, of their political destiny. Let them succeed in the great test they are faced with.” – Pt Deendayal Upadhyaya, Your Vote-1, December 4, 1961, Organiser Weekly
Another round of elections is over, and analysis about the same will continue for days to come. Gujarat’s massive mandate favouring the Bharatiya Janata Party has provided enough fodder for analysts to reflect on the Gujarat model politics. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has wrested power in MCD from BJP, though with a slender margin and dented Congress in Gujarat. This has given the young party sufficient showcasing points. The grand old party has also got some oxygen to breathe by securing the Himachal Assembly in a tight contest by defeating the incumbent BJP. Like any other election, this set of elections also have a message from the voters through EVMs.
The brand Modi continues to resonate with the masses, and Gujarat’s record-breaking victory for BJP is a testimony of the same. It was PM Modi’s magic that the BJP could get its vote share in the MCD polls and could contest in Himachal with an almost equal percentage of votes polled in comparison to the
Congress. The Modi-made Gujarat model has shattered the traditional parameters of evaluating election results and breaking the barriers of caste, creed and region. Whatever the critics’ point of view – the people of Gujarat have wholeheartedly imbibed this model and are ready to stand by it even after twenty-seven years of incumbency. This remarkable victory with fifty-three per cent vote-share and 156 seats in 182-member house is a case study for psephologists to decipher beyond traditional secular-communal lines. Despite having a strong cadre base and leadership like Modi, why the nationalist party could not retain Himachal? How to replicate the Gujarat model of electioneering and governance in other States? How far has the rebel factor dented the party’s chances in the State where the alternative electoral outcome is a norm? These are the questions BJP will have to address.
AAP entered the poll-fray with a usual media buzz and high claims. Though the victory in the MCD elections is a consolation for the party, the loss of around 10 per cent vote share compared to the 2020 Assembly Elections is a reality check for the Kejriwal-led party. High and false claims about surveys can generate interest and gain some votes but can expose the party as fast as its ascendance.
The mainstreaming of the single-issue-based party that had promised positive change in politics is also a sample case to study the political culture of Bharat. After sweeping Delhi and Punjab, the same party could not save even deposits of its candidates in adjoining Himachal. In Gujarat, all the electoral predictions made by the sole star campaigner – Kejriwal – have fallen flat. The disruptive party and its leadership have much to do about building the party organisation and sharpening ideological contours before becoming a truly national party.
Congress would be naturally pleased to regain Himachal. Without Rahul Gandhi, leaders like Sachin Pilot and Bhupesh Baghel can deliver in electoral terms, is the obvious lesson – only if the Congress wants to learn. AAP has gained in Gujarat at the cost of Congress, and the decimation of the dynastic party continues in the capital region. The biggest dilemma for Congress is how to halt this slide while remaining the centre of the opposition pole.
Democracy is about deciphering the mandate and delivering governance as per the message. The recent results have provided the political parties and pundits with enough pointers to introspect not just about electoral strategies but also about addressing the issues of delivery, distribution and developing a consensus on critical national matters, going beyond the upheavals of electoral politics.