Gujarat election results 2017: The Congress tried to address inequalities in Gujarat | analysis | Hindustan Times
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Gujarat election results 2017: The Congress tried to address inequalities in Gujarat

True to its secular, liberal core, we refused to polarise the electorate, recognising that the politically beneficial is not always beneficial for the nation

analysis Updated: Dec 18, 2017 16:33 IST
Congress president Rahul Gandhi during a public meeting in Banaskantha, Gujarat. He was unwavering in his efforts to take the BJP on by asking tough and uncomfortable questions.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi during a public meeting in Banaskantha, Gujarat. He was unwavering in his efforts to take the BJP on by asking tough and uncomfortable questions.(PTI)

It’ll be no exaggeration to say that the nation’s attention has been on the Gujarat elections. Now, the results are before us. The Congress could not secure a majority. We accept the verdict and are prepared to render our services to the people of the state as a responsible opposition. The view that political victory is all that matters in a democracy, regardless of how it is achieved, is derived from a cynical view of the electoral process, where elections are all about management, not about a contest based on issues and concerns that have a bearing on the lives of the voters. The run-up to the Gujarat assembly elections saw the political debate falling to levels never seen before. No forum was spared to score political points. Unsurprisingly and unfortunately, the Gujarat campaign by the BJP in the end had to rely on the rhetoric around Pakistan, the release of Hafiz Saeed, the questioning of Rahul Gandhi’s religion, the bogey of a Muslim being a Congress chief minister and so on. Sadly, a former prime minister of India was belittled through innuendo and allegation for which no shred of evidence was offered.

The response, as we know, was dignified, based on facts and an example in intellectual strength and moral clarity. The party is also proud that when certain remarks were made against the country’s prime minister, who campaigned aggressively, the Congress acted decisively and promptly. It left no uncertainty on how it deals with improprieties, and showed a mirror to the current dispensation on how the ruling party must also deal with them. Elections may come and go, but precedents endure. Bad precedents, whether they are failures of judgement, desperation, or products of political grandstanding, cast a long shadow. Gujarat is not the last election. The effect of the electoral outcome may not last beyond the term of the legislature, but the unpleasant after-effects of the way the level of discourse was lowered by the ruling party will be remembered for a much longer time.

In the months leading up to the elections, the government and party functionaries in the BJP sought to promote the impression that the Gujarat elections would prove to be a mere formality. However, that has been anything but the case. The BJP’s leading campaigners faced depleted rallies, massive attendance at Rahul Gandhi’s meetings, and a sense of hubris. Despite the prime minister, almost all of the BJP’s chief ministers and a majority of the ministers in the Union Cabinet leading electoral efforts from the front, the BJP is now left with fewer seats in the state. The Congress, on the other hand, has fought under a unified leadership, with youth and experience, and all sections of society playing complementary roles. The party has markedly improved upon its performance in the last assembly elections on all parameters, and has united the weak, the dispossessed, and victims of unequal development in the state on a common platform. Emerging leaders from all communities have been co-opted and a volunteer culture fostered, especially online, where malicious trolling and defamation were silenced through positive messaging.

The elections prove that the Congress, true to its historical roots, is a party determined to provide moral leadership and effective opposition to forces of divisive politics. Rahul Gandhi led from the front and was unwavering in his efforts to take the BJP on by asking tough and uncomfortable questions. His spirited campaign definitely gave many a sleepless night to the BJP. All the attacks on him — personal and otherwise — only confirmed the palpable nervousness in the BJP camp. Contrary to the tall claims and sloganeering flung into the electoral space by the BJP, the Congress has tried to address everyday concerns and inequalities rampant in Gujarat, and succeeded in keeping the focus of the electorate on the shoddy progress on almost all social indices in Gujarat, along with poorly conceived and implemented measures such as the GST and demonetisation.

The BJP’s slogan of a Congress-mukt Bharat remained a pipe dream that is not shared by the democratic people of this country. True to its secular, liberal core, we refused to polarise the electorate, recognising that the politically beneficial is not always beneficial for the nation, a philosophy which the BJP hesitantly preaches, but does not practice. All told, the election may not have been a victory, but is certainly a platform from which the Congress party has launched under a strengthened leadership a fresh campaign for a liberal, secular, more equal society based on inclusiveness and equity. achin Pilot is president of the Rajasthan Congress state unit.

The views expressed are personal