Gujarat elections: Who gains and who loses as results are revealed
The Gujarat elections have a mixed message for PM Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Patidar quota leader Hardik Patel.GujaratElection2017 Updated: Dec 18, 2017 12:11 IST
Gujarat 2017 -- and the close contest -- has the potential to shape the political fortunes of key national and state leaders. In a curious way, however, key leaders have both won -- and lost -- in this election.
The BJP had won one and was leading in 103 seats and the Congress was ahead in 72 segments, the Election Commission website showed at noon. “Others” were leading in the remaining six seats of the 182-member assembly, where the majority mark is 92.
Here is what it means for the key leaders:
The Gujarat campaign has shown that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now confronting real vulnerabilities which emanate from governance challenges. The broken social coalition and the real economic discontent are problems that would not go away with this verdict. But the verdict also shows that in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Modi -- and only Modi -- retains the ability to convince a sullen electorate that they must give the party another chance, that he would be there for them. After 19 years of uninterrupted power, and despite real anger, if the BJP has returned, it is substantially due to Modi. His political capital remains intact -- but warning signals are clear. For now, he is a winner.
The formidable organiser and strategist who set the BJP a target of 150 seats may be disappointed that he failed to meet his ambition. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Patidar anger was primarily directed at Shah -- as they blamed him for police repression as well as the removal of Anandiben Patel. But his organisational homework may have helped in pushing out reluctant voters to the polling booth. He ensured that party workers, in charge of each electoral roll, mobilised voters. And it is this last mile connectivity that gave the BJP an edge over the weak organisation of Congress. Shah would be relieved at the win -- a loss would have been devastating -- but unhappy about the margin.
Despite the defeat, Rahul Gandhi may well have emerged as a leader in this round of elections and succeeded in ending the perception that he was both reluctant and incompetent. Gandhi led the campaign from the front; was disciplined in his messaging; stitched alliances; and was firm when necessary and tactically flexible at other times. It has resulted in both an increase in vote and seat share of the Congress. Yet, a loss is a loss. And the fact that Rahul was not able to begin his Presidency on a victorious note, and the party was unable to convert the discontent in Gujarat into votes, will be disappointing.
Patel, a young man of 24, who cannot fight a seat on his own, drew a tremendous response through his campaign. He single handedly broke the BJP’s decade-long social alliance by stealing away a section of the Patidar youth. He provided the human resources in the booths in Patidar-dominated seats to take on the BJP election machine. Whether he will be able to build on this appeal or has lost his moment is to be watched. He has time, but also many decisions to take. Will he join Congress? Will he set up a third force, a regional party? Will he remain a leader of only Patidars or cut across social groups? Hardik Patel, at 24, is a winner -- but is also a loser for whether he will be able to revive the momentum five years from now in a bipolar state remains open to question.