Monday, January, 30,2023

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154 seats out of 182 in Gujarat, the clarion call of 150+ finally came through. Did Prime Minister Narendra Modi estimate it, at all? It seems so, as the votes finally got counted. In all his campaign speeches PM Modi enthused the Gujarati voters to make Bhupendra Bhai’s winning margin, much larger than Narendra Bhai. No doubt, Modi’s self-respect resonating with Gujarati Pride, delivered. 27 years of BJP dominance got another 5 years of resounding success and 149 seats won over by Congress in 1985, got washed away in the swath of Modi support. Then why did Himachal Pradesh retain its inherent character of changing the ruling party every 5 years? Reasons for maintaining the 37 year old legacy are a plenty. But first, we need to bear in our minds what most Himachali journalists put their money on – if there is any national leader who knows Himachal as the back of ones’ hand, it’s PM Modi. Because it was Modi who had scripted the victory of Prem Kumar Dhumal with his innovative organizational changes way back in 90s. So, what happened? Frankly “Congressization” of BJP happened in Himachal. The cadre-based BJP had conflicting ambitions at play, factionalism played its hand at full and over dependence on claims of development undertaken by Jai Ram Thakur, backfired. Voters across the state knew of the three conflicting camps at play in Himachal politics. Voter apathy exhibited in the highhanded approach of local BJP leaders had reached legendary heights. Farmers were at loggers end with the big agri-tech firms perceived as modern colonizers. And the most vocal government staff rued the implementation of New Pension scheme. Most of all, women voters found the going tough as pandemic Corona ate away their savings and denied them alternate income sources. Had it not been for the personal intervention by PM Modi, which included direct phone calls to rebel candidates, BJP could have been limited to negligent 15 out 68 seats. It was Modi’s concerted campaign in the hill state, tailored with mass contact program banking on PM Modi’s past experiences that saved the looming rout. So, every seat the BJP secured beyond 15 seats, should in effect be credited to Modi magic.

What then worked in Gujarat? After all BJP has been in power for the past 27 years – Modi has not been active in Gujarat for over 8 years – compared to the 13 years of Modi rule, the dynamism of incumbent chief ministers pales into oblivion – so is it just, the son of soil image of Modi that made the Gujarati voter queue up? Actually December 2022 polls has been more than what meets the eye. With Rahul Gandhi and the entire Congress brass overtly preoccupied with Bharat Jodo Yatra, Gujarat was left only with the state leaders – most of whom are discredited, disgruntled, demotivated. Last minute infusion of Ashok Gehlot couldn’t lift the morale of the disillusioned state apparatus. Quite unlike the 2017 elections when Ashok Gehlot had plotted the entire election machinery into a near winning machine – after all 2017 polls saw the best performance of Congress post 2002, 77 seats when contrasted with 99 of BJP. Top this lackluster halfhearted initiative of Congress with the active participation of Aam Aadmi Party(AAP), post their sojourn in Surat Municipal polls. The “Free” - “Free”, sale announced by AAP for monthly electricity bill/monthly dole for women/ Mohalla Clinic in localities or for the auto rides by Arvind Kejriwal, roadshows of Manish Sisodia or radical-abusive statements on PM Modi by AAP State chief – AAP, gave Congress a run for its money during the election coverage. Till the first phase polling BJP ensured that in national mindset, the Gujarat elections were all about BJP & AAP. While Congress grappled with this perception slight, Modi and his core team concentrated in the rural and tribal areas of Gujarat – the core bastion of the Congress. The Prime Minister’s road show at Amba - the 50 km long road show near Ahmedabad, the focused group rallies hosted by Amit Shah and J P Nadda, the Jan Yatra covering 150+ constituencies starting from 4 corners of Gujarat, were all efforts to claim the Congress bastion. Little did the Congress or AAP realize that both got played by none other than the BJP strategists. Gujarat was the pride – the prime jewel in 2022 election and PM Modi, simply had to bedazzle the crown. And he did it.. This is the biggest take away from Gujarat & Himachal elections – Bhupendra Bhai walks away with the bigger winning margin than Narendra Bhai – but then, it’s Narendra Bhai Modi, who is the Krishna of Indian politics.


AJAY KUMAR  The writer is a senior journalist

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