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Why the Gujarat results mean it is game on for Congress

Unemployed youth, short-changed small traders, wiped out SME entrepreneurs and desperate farmers have exposed the disingenuous fault-lines of this oversold campaign that so hoodwinked us all in 2014.

Written by Sanjay Jha |
Updated: December 18, 2017 7:23:17 pm
Why the Gujarat results mean it is game on for Congress Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi at the Parliament House in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey/File)

Any political election is like a bloodfest, a winner-take-all contest. There is no runners-up trophy. In a first-past-the-post system, the victory margins can be razor-thin. The huge 282-seat mandate that the Narendra Modi –led BJP got in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll was based on a modest 31 per cent vote-share. Today, three years later in the Gujarat election, the BJP seems to have built a reasonable lead of 98-81 seats over the Congress party. The boilerplate response demands that, like all official spokespersons, I should say, “ Let the final verdict come in and then we will introspect on the ultimate findings”.

But the fact is, that there are palpable tell-tale signs emerging from the Gujarat verdict that are more than straws in the wind. So let me bite the bullet.

There are three significant takeaways from the results. First, the general election in 2019 has been completely opened up. I am frequently subjected to the question on TV, “Is the Congress party preparing for 2024 polls”? For a long while, this myth was assiduously promoted by the fact that the electoral verdict of 2019 was a fait accompli. But given that even a week is a long time in politics, the economic stasis and social schisms that we are experiencing may well impact the BJP’s demonstrable winning momentum.

Take a look at the Gujarat numbers. The BJP has a 10 per cent vote-share swing against it ( 59 per cent in 2014 has dipped to 49 per cent) , while the Congress has inched up from 38 per cent to 44 per cent. From having won all 26 seats in the Lok Sabha poll, the BJP has just about crossed the halfway mark of 91. If one can make a crude statistical extrapolation of these numbers, the Lok Sabha picture could be 14-12, or 15-11. And this has happened in Modi ‘s heavily-invested home state. Game on!

Second, the entire country has witnessed this acerbic, acrimonious Gujarat campaign, in which the celebrated Gujarat model has been nonchalantly abandoned by both its torch-bearer, prime minister Narendra Modi as well as the BJP. It was always a snake-oil salesman’s kind of pitch, a fabricated fantasy that has now imploded. Unemployed youth, short-changed small traders, wiped out SME entrepreneurs and desperate farmers have exposed the disingenuous fault-lines of this oversold campaign that so hoodwinked us all in 2014. The economic malaise that affects Gujarat is a pan-Indian predicament.

Third, Modi’s attempt to cleverly camouflage his Hindutva mask is finally off. His deplorable attack on former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, former Army Chief Deepak Kapoor and respected bureaucrats by bringing in the Pakistan angle, openly asking voters to choose between Mandir and Masjid, referring to Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as Congress President as Aurangzeb Raj – all the while letting his foot-soldiers brazenly indulge in religious polarisation was a telling manifestation of the BJP’s hidden agenda.

The original “Hum Paanch, Hamare Pacchis” man (a factually incorrect reference to the fact that Muslims have several more children than Hindus) has returned to his pristine avatar. Indians did not vote for this in 2014. Now they know. Development was always just a ruse to beguile the innocent voter.

I concede that the final score-line may read 98-81, or thereabouts, in favor of the BJP in Gujarat. But the discerning can see that the wind may have just changed direction.

Sanjay Jha is National Spokesperson of the Congress. He tweets @JhaSanjay

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