The BJP may have won Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but deep down, it also knows that it has lost the battle.
The outcome is a resounding ‘no’ to demonetisation and the shoddy manner in which the “Gabbar SIngh Tax” GST has been implemented.
The numbers may be on Modi’s side, but he has reduced the moral stature of the office he holds – he is himself a severely diminished man today.
For the Congress, apart from the big plus of having brought down the BJP’s tally down to double-digit, the biggest gain is that, despite the BJP’s personal attacks on him, Rahul Gandhi has shown that he has the capacity to lead the Grand Old Party. And, he intends to do so without bartering the ideals that make India great – secularism, respect for all sections of the society, including those whose views you don’t agree with, and honesty of purpose. Gujarat has today taken the winds out of the PM’s oft-repeated vision of a Congress-Mukt Bharat.
Despite trying every trick in the trade, including using Pakistan, relying on outright falsehood to half-baked theories and claims, casting ugly aspersions on his political opponents, turning the election about him, actions that only ensured that the dignity of the office of the PM of the world’s largest democracy that he occupies was sullied, Modi and his party at best managed, what in boxing parlance is called, a win by points. The voters saw through the BJP’s communal agenda, asking the right questions to the man who claims to be “Vikaspurush”.
The Congress, on the other hand, has left the BJP and the PM with a badly bruised nose and reputation.
Himachal Pradesh has only followed the decades-old tradition of changing the party in power in every election. But, there too, the BJP, despite the win, will have too much to think about – both its Chief Minister candidate and state unit president have lost.
But, coming back to Gujarat, this election proved, once again, that the BJP will resort to any and all means to remain in power. What else can explain the fact that the Prime Minister, who is known to tom-tom the Gujarat Model at every opportunity, was forced to spend so many days campaigning in the state, forgetting that he is the PM of India and no longer Chief Minister of Gujarat.
While campaigning, the PM also completely forgot to talk about the Gujarat Model of development. He knew that in this age, where news travels faster than the TV channels can show it, Gujarat lags behind many other states in almost every indicator, especially those relating to education, health, tribal welfare and poverty in general. Modi’s model has only widened the gap between the rich and poor – courtesy the crony-capitalism that he is firmly believes in and propagates.
Some select big industrialists benefitted from the largesse doled out by the BJP under him. From being ranked 7th among 20 major states in incidence of poverty in 1994, the state’s rank steadily declined to 10th by 2011. The condition of tribals and other backward communities, struggling to make two ends meet, is pitiable.
Despite increase in the height of Narmada dam, farmers in large parts of the state remain without irrigation water. Large parts of the State remain without adequate electricity.
Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise that the PM and the BJP decided to dump the claims about ‘Vikas’, instead fighting the election on the issue of Pakistan. But, results show that the people of Gujarat have seen through the lies and half-truths.
The Mian Musharraf discourse was back in action. The PM questioned the presence of a counsel representing a particular party in relation to the Ram Janmabhoomi issue, which was heard in the Supreme Court on December 5. The counsel’s representation became a national issue as if the issue of farmers’ suicides, levels of poverty, decline in social indicators, the negative impact of demonetisation which affected lives and livelihoods were of no relevance.
Not once did he apologise for the poor implementation of GST or demonetisation, both of which have destroyed the informal sector, robbing workers of their livelihoods and small industry of its earnings. A small, personal dinner at a Congressman’s house where Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, the ex-foreign minister of Pakistan was also present, was turned into a conspiratorial gathering. The PM alluded to discussions in the meet being anti-national, though the subject was never touched.
But, the voters saw through his game plan. They know having dinner with a Pakistani guest isn’t anti-national. But, by the BJP’s own definition, embracing the then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif at his inauguration and an impromptu visit to Pakistan for his birthday party is certainly anti-national.
The Gujarat election has also lowered the dignity of another Constitutional body – the Election Commission. Beginning with the unexplained and, many would say, questionable delay in announcing dates for the elections, a delay that was only aimed at allowing the PM to announce sops for the poll-bound state, and the notice to opposition leaders, especially Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who was asked to explain his interaction with the media on the eve of the closing hours of electioneering, while, at the same time, ignoring the PM’s huge road show after casting his vote, shows institutional bias.
It doesn’t expand the cause of democracy when the arbiter of the electoral process is not even-handed in its response to similar situations. The media, especially the electronic media, also has a lot of explaining to do.
The PM and the BJP have to understand that numbers do not win hearts. It is the well-being and all round development of all sections of society that do. A leader has to be large-hearted and unless the PM makes a serious attempt to win back the hearts of those who put him in office, this victory will remain pyrrhic. And, he can also forget 2019.
The author is a senior Congress leader
Courtesy: This article is published in DNA on dated 19th december 2017