It was a scary Monday morning for BJP Supporters across the nation, at least momentarily. Early trends gave BJP a comfortable lead over Congress, at one point, the BJP looked poised to even breach the 130 mark. And then the tables turned. Congress inched ahead of BJP and soon raced ahead towards the Majority mark of 92 seats. At one point of time, Congress was leading BJP with a comfortable 20 Seats margin. The glum faces of 5-star Lutyens Journalists were lit with mirth, and the famous line “These are initial trends, let us wait for the results” that has been the pet catchphrase of congress spokespersons was now being parroted by BJP Spokespersons. Sensex tanked by 800 points. It looked all over for the BJP. But slowly and steadily BJP bounced back and sprinted ahead of Congress. At the time of writing this article, BJP is leading on 102 seats, while the Congress is leading on 76 seats.
But, the scare was real. While BJP hasn’t lost too many seats as compared to the last election, it has lost many votes. The numbers are decisive enough to understand that the BJP was vulnerable, for the first time in over 2 decades in Gujarat. BJP finished way below its specified target of 150 seats. While the party workers were upbeat, supporters confident and BJP’s Social Media Machinery jubilant, PM Modi was a concerned man. He could sense that everything wasn’t well in his home state. BJP was fighting against 22 Years of anti-incumbency. BJP was fighting against a visibly angry businessmen community. BJP was finding it tough to appeal to 52 per cent of Gujarat’s voters who for more than half of their lives, had seen only the BJP in power. Patels were angry. Dalits had found a new messiah. OBCs had a strong leader too. And to top it all. Narendra Modi was not the Chief Ministerial Candidate this time.
If this photo finish is any indication then BJP was all set to lose Gujarat. But PM Modi turned it around in 2 weeks.
Prime Minister Modi left no stone unturned in campaigning across Gujarat. He was back to his former avatar of BJP star Campaigner. And he started laying the groundwork well before he hit the campaign trail.
Modi government brought the GST rates drastically down and simplified several procedures considerably. The trading and business community in Gujarat, especially in and around Surat had shown bitterness over GST and its trial-by-error implementation. The last-minute tweaks served as a comforting message for the community. As per the trends Bhartiya Janata Party has swept Surat.
PM Modi campaigned like a man-on-a-mission. There was no Modi wave this time and PM Modi had to create one in less than 2 weeks before the election. PM Modi invoked Gujarati Asmita (Gujarati pride) and asked the voters to vote against those who have been acting against the interests of a common Gujarati. Like a wily Politician PM Modi tuned Congress’s vicious campaign back on to them. When Mani Shankar Aiyar called him a neech Aadmi, PM Modi twisted it into “Neech Jaati ka Aadmi”, thereby accusing Congress of having a Casteist mindset and being unfair to the Dalits and other marginalized communities. PM Modi had used the same strategy against Priyanka Gandhi in 2014 General Elections. PM Modi brought up the issue of Kashmiri separatist leader Salman Nizami’s closeness with Rahul Gandhi. He made it point to cite Nizami’s anti-India tweets, delivering a killer blow to Congress’s “BJP is not the only nationalist party” claim. PM Modi used his tried and tested Pakistan bashing strategy too, when he accused former PM Manmohan Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar of conniving with Pakistani officials to unsettle his government. This was delivered so close to the election that Congress couldn’t effectively rebut his accusations, all they could come up with was a half-hearted, faked display of righteous anger by Manmohan Singh.
It won’t be unfounded to say that PM Modi’s no-holds-barred campaign in the last week, when he addressed rallies after rallies despite a sore throat saved the day for the BJP in Gujarat.
PM Modi has once again sealed his authority as the biggest political brand of this country. By stealing victory from the jaws of a near-certain defeat, PM Modi has shown that he can win even when there is no wave and that there is no other leader in the country who can come close to him by any stretch of the imagination. As for the Congress Party, they did everything right but in the end Prime Minister Modi turned out to be too big an rival to beat.