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Greys of Gujarat

Greys of Gujarat
The Gujarat elections came to a close with BJP ultimately securing a victory; yet, in tandem with the course of the build-up to the elections, the results too deserve deep deliberation and introspection. Since the Narendra Modi government rose to power in 2014, BJP has gone on to only strengthen its power across the country, improving its stakes with each election and exhibiting a resolve that complements an aggressive fighter who isn't willing to bow its head even in the face of the strongest adversity. Habituated to massive victories, the idea of defeat has become a trigger that only strengthens performance. As the Congress attempted to capitalise upon the anti-incumbency sentiment, BJP amplified its performance, ringing in its most powerful leaders, with the Prime Minister himself organising massive rallies and grand road shows. While Narendra Modi has always been a public face and it is no surprise that he takes to the masses as they do towards him, this time around, the exigency with which he attended to Gujarat showcased a vulnerability that was seeping into the party which had acclimatised itself to only securing wholesome victories across state Assembly elections. Coming to its bastion, it probably did not expect to be seized in its own citadel, as it almost was by the Congress, this time around. It is astonishing how ordinary individuals have almost written off the fate of the Congress which had once been the flag bearer of our modern economy. The reducing relevance of Sonia Gandhi has not yet been replaced by her son's vigour. Nevertheless, Rahul did turn the tables around, displaying a performance that was the least expected by our population or the exit polls. Even those that desired to defeat the Modi-Shah led BJP, were not confident enough to rest their faith upon the young Gandhi scion, who displayed less political acumen than his competitors, with the latter having mastered the careful craft of manipulating voters' minds and successfully tapping onto electoral mandates. The Congress, after repeated defeats since 2014, when its relevance in the Parliament was reduced to a meagre 44, adopted a different strategy this time around, hoping to tap into the various sentiments floating against the BJP. While this is an effective mood, there must be more to one's own credibility that will ultimately ensure victory. When Modi swept to power in 2014, he banked on the twin ideas of Congress-shaming and BJP-appraising. The independent idea of only ridiculing the BJP will assist the Congress, only to a certain extent. A voter's mind is quite amorphous; it is willing to adopt the strain that fits well into its shifting ideology. However, the voter today is also well-informed. Whether on the basis of misinformation rallied to it by dedicated cadres of one party or circulated social media messages—it is able to grasp onto prevalent sentiments that suit its make-up. The Congress has had a great learning experience from the Gujarat election, as probably has the BJP too. While in the public face, neither Amit Shah nor Narendra Modi will express any grievance or hesitation towards the result that has ultimately ensured its victory—it is unarguable that the secured seats falling short of 100 have surely irked the saffron giants—especially because, this is Gujarat that is being battled. Till a few months back, after the gigantic success of the Uttar Pradesh elections, nobody would bat an eyelid before assuring Gujarat to the BJP, with a massive margin. The BJP is one term short of equalling the communist regime in Bengal that lasted from 1977 to 2006, before being wiped out of sight by the TMC in 2011. If the same fate befalls the BJP, it would much rather desire to lose a few elections and resume its propaganda. However, the BJP functions very differently from the communists in Bengal—for one, the BJP still has able leaders that can help it see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Gujarat mandate has been an awakener for both the major parties of our country. In a sense, it has shown that the population, aside from workers of each party, remain unsatisfied with the performance of either. The Modi charm continues to work in favour of the BJP as does its effective booth-level management. The Congress played the caste card well in Gujarat, roping in the support of Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani. Yet, by itself, the Congress still remains aptly inadequate. Its policy for the Gujarat elections worked well; however, this policy was a Gujarat specific policy that cannot necessarily be replicated across every other state. It still lacks strong leaders at the local level who can mobilise the population and work among the voters. The BJP-cadres have repeatedly performed exceptionally well in the management of booths and securing the challenges of each constituency. The Congress managed some success this time, simply because of the caste leaders who were local boys familiar with the flavour of the region. It must broaden its vision now and tap into the lowest level of the population if it wishes to pose a challenge ahead of 2019. There are many lessons to learn from the Gujarat elections. The absence of a clear black or white makes it a fertile ground for introspection and improvement.

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