18 December 2017. Monday mornings are anyway despicable, but this one morning India woke up to a rather scary start. The results were to be announced for the legislative assembly elections for the state of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, but the early trends showed the opposite of what most of us were expecting. The Congress party, contrary to all expectations, was giving a tough fight to BJP in Gujarat, and even closing in on the magical mark of 92.
However, the excitement wavered away, and BJP bounced back in style. Though they barely managed to cross the majority, and win just 99 seats, it was still enough to stake claim for a government in Gujarat. Surviving the early morning scare, BJP secured not only their home ground, but also steamrolled the Congress challenge in Himachal, winning 44 out of 68 seats contested in the elections.
However, the big question still exists: what are the key takeaways for BJP this time? It is the voice of the masses in Gujarat, which should serve as a wakeup call for the incumbent government, and make sure that such a lapse doesn’t happen again. Following are some essential characteristics of this wake-up call that BJP top brass needs to keep in mind, as they move in for an action packed 2018:-
1.) Development is not the only cure:-
Much as we would wish it to be, development and economic prosperity is NOT the only solution for BJP. Had it been so, regions like Saurashtra and Kutch, which has benefited the most from the development oriented projects of the incumbent BJP governments, wouldn’t have given BJP the drubbing they faced in the current elections. This was the region where the influence of Hardik Patel and his cronies was apparently the least, and instead of capitalizing on their inherent strengths [to be discussed further], BJP fell flat, managing to win only 23 seats from this region. Need I remind you of the ‘India Shining’ campaign?
2.) Maintain the trust of the masses and the markets:-
Even when BJP earned the ire of the common masses and the traders with their radical reforms like GST, Demonetization, it didn’t reflect at all in the results. Surprisingly, in places like Surat, Rajkot etc., where the campaign of the Congress party and the Patidar trio was the fiercest, was where they received their worst drubbings. Fun fact, Congress did not manage to win a single seat in the entire region of Surat, even though they had left no stone unturned in ‘exposing’ the alleged apathy of the government towards cloth and diamond traders. This is not all, regions of North and Central Gujarat, where the Patidar movement’s tactics were expected to hit the hardest, was where BJP had benefited the most. If they need to carry the flag of their victory aloft, BJP needs to capitalize on such trust, and not let it slip out of their hands.
What does this mean? This signifies the immense trust the working and trading class of Gujarat has in BJP, which hasn’t evaporated even after such an incessant campaign from both Congress and the alleged ‘Patidar’ flag bearers. Even the markets prefer BJP’s stability and business friendly measures, be it Make In India, or Startup, Standup India, or even the much touted Digital India, so much that the impact of a possible BJP loss would be devastating, which was proved by a sudden dip of 850 points in the stock index of Bombay Stock Exchange, SENSEX. Unless the party that is now running the Central government isn’t doing anything significant with respect to changing the Indian economy, you don’t see such a dip in the economic indexes for the day, do you?
3.) Stop giving grounds to roadside crooks like Hardik, Jignesh and Alpesh:-
Another warning for BJP from this wakeup call of electoral loss is: Do not underestimate your opponents. BJP leaders in Gujarat failed to grasp was the Congress’ specialty for ‘Divide and Rule’. This was why they incorporated people like Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mewani, and Alpesh Thakor, who are in reality nothing more than some mere roadside crooks, but they were successful in at least making a dent on the unity of the votes that were bound to be received by BJP.
What BJP failed to do was to nip the so called Patidar agitation in the bud, which had brought Gujarat to a standstill in 2015, and thus ceded ground to the divisive leaders and allowed them to play their game of deceit, and split the votes that would’ve otherwise consolidated in favor of BJP.
Every state has Hardiks waiting to capitalize on the opportunity, BJP needs to make sure that such people are not given any opportunities to expand their wings and continue their game of deceit, because such people will always find a willing sponsor in Congress.
4.) Core ideals must not be neglected:-
Gujarat elections also serve an important lesson: Never Neglect your CORE IDEALS! BJP, which is known for its aggressive nationalism and Hindutva agenda was surprisingly soft on these very grounds. This softness has been disastrous for BJP, be it the Delhi elections or the Bihar elections of 2015, where despite commanding a lion’s share in the votes received, they had to see seemingly weaker opponents like Aam Aadmi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal take away all the attention, glory and ultimately the seats. What explains BJP’s drubbing in Somnath?
So if BJP wants to increase their base, and continue their victorious march even after 2019, they need to make sure that the aggression doesn’t fade out for even a moment, they must resort to the aggressive nationalism and Hindutva that has been their inherent strength, and not just limit it to the election campaigns. Unless BJP strikes hard on the issues of Ram Mandir, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code, such lapses are bound to happen. These were their core ideals that had propelled them to a comprehensive victory in 2014, it was this aggression that gave them a massive victory in states like Asom, UP, Manipur, Uttarakhand etc. Being defensive is not an option for the BJP!
5.) DO NOT NEGLECT State level Leadership:-
What BJP needs to also learn is the fact that neglecting your state leadership won’t bring beneficial results. Anandi Ben Patel cut an extremely sorry figure as the Chief Minister, Vijay Rupani should have been a little more aggressive in containing the anarchy that was orchestrated in the name of reservations for Patidar Patel community by Hardik Patel and Congress party. Loss of a popular local face cost them the crucial state of Bihar where the universally accepted CM face of Nitish Kumar turned out to be too big a competition.