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Assembly elections 2017: Why BJP, Congress must celebrate and introspect

Gujarat election results show that in some ways, the electorate, a vocal section of which were distraught, gave both parties some reason to celebrate: the BJP more; the Congress less.

opinion Updated: Dec 18, 2017 18:43 IST
Vinod Sharma
Vinod Sharma
Hindustan Times
Election result,Live election results 2017,Live updates
Celebrations outside the Bharatiya Janata Party’s office in Mumbai on Monday after trends shows that the party would win both Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. (HT Photo)

For the sixth time on the trot, it’s a respectable victory for the BJP in Gujarat. The final count is yet to come, but at 70-odd seats, the Congress’ defeat is honourable.

In some ways, the electorate, a vocal section of which was distraught for a variety of reasons from agrarian distress to issues with GST, gave both parties some reason to celebrate: The BJP more; the Congress less.

Compliments are due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi — once again his party’s one-man battalion — for having helped it to retain power. He defused strong anti-incumbency against the local leadership, to spearhead the BJP in gaining a simple majority in the 182-member House.

For Rahul Gandhi who strategised and led the Congress charge, the results at once are cause for satisfaction and introspection. The issues he raised found resonance with sizeable sections of Gujarati voters who aren’t easy to please. At the same time, he failed, despite proximate and direct partnerships with young Turks such as Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mewani, to deliver the “zabardast” outcome he predicted on the last day of electioneering.

One can say it was the Congress’ best chance squandered again. But that’ll be a tad unfair. The party’s performance would seem impressive, given the near-derelict state of its organisational infrastructure in the BJP citadel. It not merely lacked committed cadre but also a robust chief ministerial option for the electorate.

The party’s three top leaders at the local level are sons of former chief ministers without the mass base of their fathers: Bharat Solanki, Siddhartha Patel and Tushar Chaudhary. Not surprising then that none of them was perceived as an option. And to some extent, nor was the Congress, what with the BJP being in power at the Centre under Modi—its Mr Teflon.

So how’d the results, including the Congress’ defeat in Himachal Pradesh, play out at the national level?

The BJP will do well to take a closer look at its policies and their implementation, agrarian distress and growing unemployment. There was evidence on the ground that lack of jobs has somewhat weakened Modi’s hold on the young electorate.

As for the Congress, the first task for Rahul, who took over as party president days before the results, should be to strengthen the party in states where assembly polls are due next year: Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. For it were the drubbings it got in these provinces that took the fight out of the party for the 2014 general elections that reduced it to a rump in the Lok Sabha.

vinodsharma@hindustantimes.com

First Published: Dec 18, 2017 14:16 IST