Thursday, June 20, 2024

Gujarat and H. P. Assembly results open new political dynamics


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By Dr Satish Misra


A victory by almost retaining its 2007 tally of 117 seats in Gujarat and a defeat in Himachal Pradesh for the BJP has not only set the tone for the next Lok Sabha elections but has also created new set of problems for the two national parties.

While in Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has scored a personal hat trick by successfully beating the anti-incumbency factor three times in a row and helping the party to keep its political opponent at bay since 1995, a clear victory by the Congress in Himachal under former chief minister Virbhadra Singh has helped the party in arresting the growing public perception that it was on decline and stood almost no chance after the next general elections in 2014 to retain power at the Centre.

Modi’s coming back to power despite stiff opposition from a section of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh and former state chief minister Keshubhai Patel who contested the election after leaving his parent party and floating his own party-Gujarat Parivartan Party- has reiterated once again the role of personality in Indian politics. In fact the election battle was Modi versus the Rest in which the former has won hands down.

In Gujarat, the BJP’s tally of 117 of 2007 has come down by two and the Congress has improved its tally by four seats if go by the tally of 59 in 2007 and by nine if one considers that it had lost five by-elections in five years since the elections were held. Keshubhai’s party has only been able to score two seats and others have bagged 4 seats.

In Himachal, the Congress gained 13 seats but the BJP lost 15 seats and came down to 26 from 41 thus conceding two seats to others which shows the degree of disillusionment of the electorate with Prem Kumar Dhumal government.

Results of the two assembly elections also establish that roots of democracy are deepening as the percentage of polling has been going up and people are willing to participate in the democratic process. The percentage of voting has been going up thanks to efforts of the Election Commission and other civil society organizations.

Though it cannot be conclusively said today but it can be easily surmised that the issue of corruption did not impact the outcome of the election in a big way. In Himachal, where the Congress has won by winning 36 out of 68 seats thus getting a clear majority, state Congress president Virbhadra Singh had been charge-sheeted in a court for alleged corruption. The very fact that the Congress has won the election under his leadership and has improved its tally in Gujarat despite being perceived as corrupt in the background of scams clearly shows that corruption is not an issue with the electorate and is a city based phenomenon where IT savvy middle class youth is agitated on this issue.

Clamor for Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and to make the next election as Rahul Gandhi versus Narendra Modi is going to be louder with every passing day. The political discourse in coming weeks and months is going to be strong versus weak in which Modi would be projected as a tough and strong and the Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi would be shown as soft and weak.

Modi, himself, does not believe in humility and has already staked a claim when he delivered his thanksgiving speech in Ahemdabad on Thursday in Hindi in which he sought pardon of the people for any future mistakes. He also stressed that his win was for India’s development and did not remain focused on Gujarat by talking of development in the state.

His prime ministerial ambition is a known fact as Modi fan clubs have been in existence for last couple of years in different cities of the country. He can go to any extent to fulfill his ambition and he has never hidden this from public knowledge.

The BJP, which is already suffering from dissensions and factionalism, is going to be confronted with the question whether to project Modi as the prime ministerial candidate or not and if yes then when. First, the BJP would have to decide if Nitin Gadkari has to be given a second term or not. There is already a debate on the issue within the BJP with the RSS backing Gadkari for a second term and Modi being opposed to it.

Though Modi has not gone on record to say he is opposed to giving Gadkari a second term but his acolyte and his lawyer friend Ram Jethmalani’s opposition is no great secret. In coming days, Modi would definitely try to strengthen his hold on the party machinery in New Delhi by bringing his own confidants to key positions. He may bargain for party positions by conceding a second term for Gadkari and thus reach an understanding with the Sangh.

After capturing the party, Modi would try to set the national agenda for the next Lok Sabha polls but he would have to cultivate the BJP’s allies in the NDA where Bihar chief minister and leader of the JD (U) is opposed to him being projected as the prime ministerial candidate and Shiv Sena is also not very comfortable with him if full knowledge that Modi has been promoting Raj Thackeray and has been ignoring Uddhav Thackeray. In person of Modi, parties like BJD and TDP too would also have problems.

If and when the BJP has decided on making Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, then the national politics is going to witness the communalism versus secularism debate in which parties would have to once again decide which side to stand with. (IFS)

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