Gujarat Elections and Beyond

171218 BJP, Congress logos

The year 2017 is coming to an end with the results of the last two elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. While the results in Himachal were never in doubt, I had predicted BJP’s win in Gujarat on 1st December 2017. My logic was that while the voter in Gujarat was angry with the BJP because of demonetization, GST and some arrogance after 22 years in power, the voter would decide not to exercise his franchise rather than vote against the BJP. This would be the voter’s way of lodging their protest. This was the reason we saw a dip of 2.91% in the voter turnout in 2017 (68.41%) as compared to 2012 (71.32%). Barring the state of Punjab, the Congress has lost every election in 2017.

The actual seat numbers have gone back and forth since counting started at 8 am and one stage it was actually felt that the Congress may be able to form the Government in Gujarat, resulting is a steep drop in the stock markets and celebrations at the Congress headquarters.

While the final tally will be known in due course, the overall results are now out and the BJP has got about 107 seats while the Congress has managed to get 75 seats, thus ensuring that the BJP will form the Government once again in Gujarat. While the Congress is claiming a victory in its defeat, the BJP should take comfort in the fact that they have managed anti-incumbency without its tallest leader Mr Modi directly leading the state as its Chief Minister. Further, despite the reduction in its seats, the vote share of the BJP has actually increased by 2 percent to 50 percent.

Shiv bhakt, Rahul Gandhi with his “trishul” of Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani fought a valiant battle. While individually they did make an impact on BJP’s vote share, they were from such disparate ideologies that no matter how hard they tried, the voter could not identify with them on a common platform. With no other Congress leader canvassing, the voter was left wondering if his fate was going to be thrust into the waiting hands of the “trishul” leaders.

Everyone is talking about how, under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi (without crediting the three “trishul” leaders), they have managed to increase their seat tally. This is being seen as a moral victory for Rahul Gandhi. No one is discussing the reasons why the Congress, sitting in power in Himachal Pradesh, has been decimated completely. From a policy of appeasement to reaching out to every Hindu God to making harsh personal remarks against the Prime Minister, the Congress tried it all, unsuccessfully, in these elections.

After this performance of the Congress, while knives would have been out for any other leader, the Congress spokespersons are busy crafting excuses to support the newly anointed 47 ½ year old “youth” leader. After all, as Mani Shankar Iyer candidly stated “Was there an election when Jahangir succeeded Shah Jahan? Was there any election when Aurangzeb became the emperor after Shah Jahan? It was known that the Badshah’s son would become the emperor”. Friendly television anchors have already started building the case for the “potential” of the youth emperor in the elections ahead. Rahul Gandhi, version 2.0 is now expected to take a much more aggressive stance and provide the much-needed leadership to his struggling party.

The results in 2017 clearly demonstrate that the Congress is working hard to achieve the Prime Minister’s “Congress Mukt Bharat” faster than he could ever have imagined or hoped for!

The states of Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Rajasthan and Tripura will go to the polls in 2018. While the BJP has already got into election mode in the north-eastern states, the Congress, once it stops the rejoicing on the appointment of their new leader and their victory in the loss of Gujarat, needs to quickly get its act together. Gloating about Gujarat elections and listening to the obsequious comments of some leaders will do more harm than good.

The noise on EVM tampering has reduced significantly because Congress has better results than they expected in Gujarat. The impact or lack of EVM tampering in Himachal Pradesh is not the cause for any discussion.  It is a matter of time before the shrill voices on collusion between the BJP and the Election Commission will start rising to crescendo once again as the Congress and other opposition parties start to sense their vulnerability in other elections. What needs to be noted is that the Election Commission is a constitutional body and questioning its intent should be taken as seriously as “contempt of court” with appropriate action on those making such allegations.

The system of our democracy is the “first one past the post wins the election” – while a huge victory is definitely better than a smaller victory, a win is a win.

Dr Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, once famously recalled “shortly before his death Mahatma Gandhi had told us that after attainment of Swaraj, the Congress, whose objective was to attain it, should convert itself into an organisation of a non-political nature whose function would be like that of a Seva Samiti, working on non-party lines for the service of all.”

The Congress, under the leadership of its new president, needs to do some serious “chintan” and soul searching on who its voter constituency is and where it wishes to be in the next fifty years.

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The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here – Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.

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