BJP Faces New Challenges in GujaratAlthough the BJP has sailed past the magic figure in Gujarat, it must do a lot of soul searching. Self-aggrandizing sound bites might look good for public consumption, but the fact of the matter is that this victory is more a moral defeat. All indications pointed to public anger the farmers were angry as the promised rise in minimum support price on their produce did not materialize, the Dalits were angry, the Patels were angry, the OBCs were angry and the traders were angry due to the fact that like the last three years of UPA II rule, nothing was moving in Gujarat. It was as if the state was on auto mode with first Anandiben Patel and then Vijay Rupani just going through the motions. It was rumoured that Amit Shah was running the state by remote control. Obviously then the device he used was defective. There were no new jobs, Patels had started a huge agitation, Dalits were being brutalized and there was a general sense of despondency in the state. The people were often asking where is Narendrabhai and why is he allowing this to happen?
By Sunil Garodia
It is to the credit of the Congress and Rahul Gandhi that they managed to channel public anger effectively. When the BJP was not able to rein in the cow vigilantes and stop the attack on the Dalits, the Congress made overtures to Jignesh Mawani and brought him on board. The pent up OBC anger on being left out in the vikas was used by the Congress by winning over Alpesh Thakor. While the Congress treaded hesitantly with the Patels and got the final agreement almost aborted, they did manage to get Hardik Patel on their side in the end. All these three things made a huge difference in the end. For, a closer examination of the voting pattern clearly shows that the core voters of the two major parties have not changed. The Congress gained as it got the votes from the supporters of the young turks. The closeness of the fight was mainly due to the fact that there were straight fights in most seats. If Congress had not allied with the young turks and if they had fielded their own candidates, the results of another 15 to 20 seats could have gone in the favour of the BJP as the opposition votes would have then been divided.
The next big thing that is clearly visible on an analysis of the results and the voting pattern is the huge urban-rural divide in the state. The BJP had promised the farmers that the minimum support price of their produce would be suitably enhanced to make life easier for them. That promise remained unfulfilled. The suffering farmers had more or less decided to teach the party a lesson. While the storm did not convert into a tsunami in the end, the farmers have managed to convey their power to those who matter. It seems that the next five years of governance in Gujarat will be as much, if not more, for farm related issues as it would be for big industrial projects.
As the BJP readies itself to form the next government, it has to recognize that for the first time in 22 years it will be facing an assembly that will include elected and hugely popular representatives of the Dalits, the Patidars and the OBCs. These representatives will not speak the condescending party language in-house BJP MLAs from these sections speak when the issues concerning these castes are debated. Mewani, Thakor and Hardik Patels MLAs are going to question the next government on each of their policies vis-à-vis these sections and will not take things lying down. The government must prepare itself to address these issues they can no longer be swept under the carpet. The next five years of governance in Gujarat will be exciting and trying at the same time. It will be a huge test for a state considered to be the foremost laboratory of the RSS brand of Hindutva.