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Most Patidars voted for BJP again, Gujarat has rejected Congress politics of caste

The Congress party used derogatory language against the Prime Minister which hurt Gujarati ‘asmita’, or pride.

Written by Amit Malviya |
Updated: December 19, 2017 9:16:00 am
PM Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah rejoice after party's victory in Gujarat and Himachal Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah along with members of the parliamentary board rejoice after the party’s victory in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh at the party HQ in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

First things first, it is no mean feat, in fact a stupendous achievement, to beat 22 years of anti-incumbency and yet triumph with a margin of 8 per cent votes in Gujarat, amidst a highly sectarian and virulent campaign unleashed by the state’s principal opposition party, the Congress and its allies. The only other parallel in Indian political history is found in the dominance of the Left government in West Bengal, which ruled for over three decades. A comfortable majority for the BJP in Gujarat for the sixth straight term is yet another emphatic endorsement of its politics of performance and development. It is also a rejection of the politics of canards, divisiveness and negativity.

Gujarat has been one of the most developed states in India and much of the credit for it goes to Prime Minister Modi, who as Chief Minister of the state, and chief architect of the famed Gujarat Model, ensured good governance, round-the-clock power, world class infrastructure, safety and security of women and an enabling business environment among others.

The BJP’s track record on most of the development parameters in Gujarat speaks for itself. It was the only economy that consistently grew at a much higher rate than the national average. The annual average rate during 2005-06 to 2011-12 was 9.9 per cent and 8.9 per cent during 2012-13 to 2015-16. The national average growth rate during these years stood at 6.9 per cent. The state has seen a sharp rise in per capita income to Rs 1,41,504 from Rs 13,665 in the 22 years the BJP has been power.

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Besides the fact that Gujarat is the home state of Prime Minister Modi, it is his contribution to the state, which is widely recognised by leaders and institutions the world over, that has put Gujarat on the world map. Be it the massive rehabilitation exercise in Kutch after the devastating earthquake in 2001, the Rann Utsav that grew to a three-month long festival from a three-day long festival in 2005, the success of ‘Vibrant Gujarat’, or the impressive improvement in social indicators, the Gujarat Model has been accepted and ratified by the people at the hustings time and again.

On the other hand the Congress party, which has lost considerable support across the country and has faced humiliating defeats since 2014 under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, appeared desperate to devise narratives that would offset the ramifications of their electoral routs stemming from their inept governance track record and rampant corruption. A leaderless and visionless Congress in Gujarat had outsourced their campaign to self-appointed caste leaders, who had no ideological affinity to the Congress party. The result has been a complete decimation of the Congress’s state leadership, all of whom have lost their election.

The Congress made disconcerted attempts to undermine the success and acceptance of the Gujarat Model. It resorted to dividing Gujarati society on caste lines and used derogatory language for the Prime Minister, which hurt Gujarati ‘asmita’, or pride. It even tried to project the Congress party and its leaders as the mascot of ‘soft Hindutva’ which they never were, nor ever will be. It also made dishonest, unimplementable and fiscally unsound promises to the people of Gujarat.

The Congress also relied heavily on the ‘Patidar Andolan’ to show to the world that there was social unrest in the state. They provoked an agitation in the Patidar community that had traditionally backed the BJP for decades, hoping to create a chink in the BJP’s armour. Even though the agitation led to localised unrest, in hindsight the BJP exhibited exemplary poise and balance in dealing with the situation that could have been worse. But the community, barring a few pockets, has extended its support to the BJP yet again. They also hoped that the inconvenience that was caused to people due to the biggest anti-black money drive undertaken in India, demonetisation as well as the teething problems of the biggest structural reform, GST, would result in votes for them.

But by most accounts, as the results show, their hopes have been dashed. Their model of social engineering has failed. The Patidars, Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs have voted in favour of development, and against divisive politics. The trader community has also stood behind the BJP. The party has won handsomely in the tribal belt with a significant improvement in vote percentage and seats. It has once again swept Surat and Mehsana region that was projected as the epicenter of disenchantment in the state.

The results have also repudiated the purported rural-urban divide in the state. A closer look at the results indicates that the pattern of support for the BJP in both urban and rural areas is similar and the “rural distress” manifested in certain pockets was exaggerated. While dominating the urban seats, the BJP has managed to win support of around 50 per cent of the rural votes. This is where the political pundits faltered by predicting huge gains for the Congress. The people of Gujarat who have been wise enough to repose their faith in BJP for 22 years could see through the lies and attempts to mislead them.

At the same time, the BJP is cognizant of the reverses in the Saurashtra region and accepts the verdict with full humility. It sets the stage for the next government to introspect and focus on redressing grievances of this region on priority.

To sum up, there may have been some discontent but there was no disenchantment with the BJP. Polling more than 49 per cent with an increase of around 1.5 per cent over the 2012 result, against the backdrop of 22 years of anti-incumbency and consolidation of all anti-BJP forces, is ratification of this fact.

The Congress party’s defeat proves that the people of Gujarat have rejected its politics, which threatened to rupture the social fabric of the state, something its leaders will never acknowledge publicly.

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