Gujarat: Easy Win For BJP Will Be Disturbing For Public DiscourseExit polls give it to BJP
By Sunil Garodia
The exit polls are out. BJP is winning both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh comfortably, if one has faith in these polls. For, as far as Gujarat is concerned, the Congress doesnt seem to put its money on exit polls. Its spokesmen have been pointing out that many polls in the past have got it wrong in many states. While that is true, but since the poll of exit polls (meaning an average of all exit polls) also shows that BJP is winning by a wide margin in Gujarat and sweeping Himachal, it leaves little room for doubt.
Congress gains in Gujarat
The exit polls also show that the Congress is gaining hugely. From 61 (43, after defections) seats in the outgoing assembly to predicted 65 at the lowest and 74 at the highest, the Congress seems to be making the most of the anti-incumbency factor coupled with its strategic alliances with the three young turks of Gujarat Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mewani. It also shows that Rahul Gandhi has at last found a semblance of connect with the masses, however small and perhaps not yet effective enough to topple a giant like Narendra Modi in his own backyard.
Modi changed tactics in second half
What must be troubling both Modi and his trusted lieutenant Amit Shah is the extremely good show the Congress has put up. But both of them had inkling about it, as reflected in the change in content and tenor of Modis campaign in the latter half. Initially, the prime minister was content at talking about growth and economic prosperity. But when he found few takers for it post notebandi, GST and dwindling jobs, he switched expertly to what he is good at playing to the gallery by making personal attacks and playing on Gujarati pride.
Gujarat loves Narendra Modi, but for how long without good governance?
There is no doubt Gujarat loves Modi. He is viewed as a poor mans son who rose from the ranks to bring pride to the state and the nation. They have immense faith in his capabilities, the proof of which comes from the way many Patels, OBCs and Dalits have refused to side with the respective young turks from their communities and the famous comment of a trader who said that they will vote for BJP as they are angry but not gaddar. Modi, till now, has a mesmerizing hold on the people of Gujarat. But with the fierce opposition this time, things can change fast if governance is not good in the next five years. The BJP needs to pull up its socks and introduce a newer version of the much-touted Gujarat model.
Congress must keep up the good work
As for the Congress, although Rahul Gandhi seems to be heading towards starting his first innings as Congress president with a defeat, he can take heart from the good showing. To continue the good work however, he would have to keep chipping away at BJP strongholds in the state. He would also have to cement his alliances with Patel, Thakor and Mewani on a long-term basis as it will result in a win-win situation for all concerned. The young turks will get the benefit of the huge grassroots level infrastructure of the Congress while the party will get dedicated vote banks. Congress must realize that despite losing now, it has to beat the BJP in Gujarat to stop the Modi juggernaut.
If BJP wins, in-house critics will have their tails between their legs
The final results, if they mirror the exit polls, will come as a huge relief for Modi and Shah. For, a defeat or even a poor showing in Gujarat would have had two effects. It would have lessened Modis authority in the party over time and would have further emboldened in-house critics like Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha, to name just the two who are most high profile. It would have also dented the prospects of another win in 2019 general elections.
But BJP's victory will be bad for public discourse
Victory, on the other hand, will strengthen his hands. He will now be able to say that all talk about the traders of Gujarat going against him after notebandi and GST were figments of the Congress imagination. But the real tragedy is that while Gujarat is being won due to the esteem the people of the state hold Modi in, the man himself will think that his ill-advised tactics in the second half of the campaign won it for him. That would mean that he will employ more of the same in the future and the already disturbingly plumbing depth of public discourse will go down a few notches more.