Let the battle begin!
With a series of elections across several states in India, 2017, has been a gripping year for the very unexpected results, last-moment turnarounds, and post-result alliances. As we bring the year to an end, we do so by witnessing two more elections in the country. The first election is scheduled to be held in Himachal Pradesh on November 9; the state, for now, is under the rule of the Congress with erstwhile leader Virbhadra Singh comfortably leading his people in arguably India's most tourist-friendly region. The second election, in December, is expected to come with a nail-biting finish as Gujarat gears up for its battle in the first and second weeks of December. The traditional bastion of Narendra Modi and subsequently the BJP, the party faces a strong anti-incumbency wave in the state that has been its formidable backbone. The Congress has left no stone unturned to ensure that fate is rewritten and Gujarat can be whisked out of the hands of the BJP who are comfortably ruling at the Centre with leadership in 18 other states. If rumours are to be believed, then the last two elections of this year which are also preparing the stage for the BJP and Congress to go head-to-head against each other, could end with the lotus party emerging victorious, almost comfortably. That would take their count to 20, a comfortable grip on the reins of governing this country. Gujarat has emerged to be a potboiler with extensive rallies being held by both, the Congress and the BJP, as they attempt to outdo each other in influencing the electorate to sway to their respective tunes. Not an easy task, for either. Demonetisation and GST haven't spelt entirely well for the ruling party, who have faced the backlash of severe criticism from some of their traditionally strongest supporters—the merchants and traders of Gujarat. The small and medium businesses have not been in complete agreement with Modi's policy to alter the means of doing business. Digitalisation, while appreciable, hasn't been as acknowledged by small and medium businesses whose costs of conducting operations have radically increased in trying to keep pace with the government's pantheons. Several even complain that the exercise of demonetisation was ultimately harassment for the citizen as almost all money is back into the system leaving the question of black money still unanswered. Terrorism too looms large. Yet, despite the many pitfalls of the government at the Centre, the population still seems to rest a proportionately larger amount of faith on Narendra Modi than Rahul Gandhi.
Though, Rahul's performance this election season in Gujarat has been far more commendable, as his speeches have reflected more astute thinking and sharper criticism of his opponent without falling into loopholes; his image still remains obfuscated in an impression of half-hearted performance and ultimate elitism. The Gandhi name, while undeniably powerful, has also prevented him from furthering his own talent. Being a Gandhi by birth is always accounted as the reason for his presence in politics; political acumen, never is. Whether that is a barrier that he has succumbed to over time, or whether it has been there despite his effort can never be confidently vouched for. Yet, whether he can ever overcome this foible remains questionable. Who would have thought being a Gandhi in politics could have been a bane before a boon? In Himachal, Virbhadra Singh, 83, who has been re-nominated as the chief ministerial candidate by the Congress, will be challenged by his nemesis Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, who has been fielded by the BJP. In an unusual move, both parties have made an early announcement of their chief ministerial face. The BJP was compelled to do so as the Congress had already played their ball. Himachal has been a steady state with Dhumal and Singh both being popular mass leaders garnering strong clouts of support. The growth of the state under both the Congress and the BJP regimes has been steady, with the GDP shuffling between seven and eight per cent. The BJP has seen big faces marching through Himachal, seeking to sway the votes in their favour; whereas, Singh has mostly campaigned singularly for the Congress. The Congress seems to be emphasising its efforts on Gujarat, the more attractive bait on offer, for now. Prime Minister Modi has voraciously campaigned in the hill state, playing on his promise of returning to the poor the black money and illegal property that was taken away from them. As the year ends and we are spirited to welcome new beginnings, will the same Modi magic still prevail?