The Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “You cannot step into the same river twice.” He meant to warn us about constant change. Nothing can be taken for granted. The past is an imperfect guide to the future. This is the lesson the BJP has to keep in mind from now till June 2019. Until August 15, Narendra Modi seemed to be dominating politics totally. It seemed 2019 was in the bag with the only question being how much bigger would the BJP’s majority be. Since then, the clouds have darkened a bit. It began with the debacle of Ram Rahim and the failure of the Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana to protect its citizens. Yogi Adityanath has created as many controversies as he could within six months of becoming Chief Minister.
But those states are not going to the polls this side of 2019. It is the journey from now to the general election (whenever Narendra Modi chooses to hold it) which has to be carefully watched. There are dangers along the way. Take the Gujarat elections to begin with. Given the impressive record Narendra Modi had established over his three victories, it would be difficult for the BJP to do better. The chief minister is almost anonymous; Amit Shah and Modi have taken over the campaign.
Remember the Delhi election of 2015? Then the BJP relied totally on Modi’s face on posters delivering victory. It paid a heavy price. It is also interesting to see the agitation being stirred up about Padmavati. If there are still BJP leaders who think that delaying the date of release of the film has any relevance, they need to step into the 21st Century. You can already watch the songs online. If the film is delayed in release, someone would no doubt put a pirated copy online. The days of depriving people of access to information by government order are long gone. Of course, the purpose of the agitation is merely to inflame sections of voters. That is a double-edged sword; you cannot control whom it will hurt.
Gujarat has also seen the relaunch of Rahul Gandhi as the leader who is ready to deliver success. Since he spoke in Berkeley, California, two months ago, Rahul Gandhi seems a different person. From then to the publication of an article in the Op-Ed page of the Financial Times on November 8 tells us he has come a long way. Rahul Gandhi appears to have acquired an able group of advisers who are helping him improve his image. His tweets have landed blows because he chooses to mock the Prime Minister as often as earlier he used to angrily denounce him.
It is too early to say whether this will yield results, but in Gujarat, the Congress cannot lose. This is because though the BJP will win, it is unlikely to do better than Modi did in 2012. Even one or two seats fewer for the BJP will be hailed by the Congress as a victory. The tougher test will come during 2018 for both sides. Incumbency will be a problem in Madhya Pradesh. Rahul Gandhi has settled the succession problem by choosing Jyotiraditya Scindia over his more senior rivals. Slowly but surely the younger generation is taking over in the Congress. The BJP, take note.