Lessons for Congress and BJP from Gujarat Election
Gujarat election results are now out. BJP has managed to win the 6th consecutive term, which is no mean achievement, though not equalling any of its previous winning seat tallies.
What are the lessons from Gujarat results for the Congress and BJP?
Lesson For the Congress:
Rahul has to do many things right, and avoid any missteps, to be able to defeat BJP in any BJP-ruled state or at the Centre, which may not be easy at all. Rahul runs the risk of proving to be the USP of BJP, paeans in praise of the new-Rahul by the media and party cadre notwithstanding.
- Rahul has not been a 24X7 politician, doesn’t know economics or governance, hasn’t worked anywhere anytime for a living, and doesn’t stand for anything on policy matters. He may be trained and tutored to say a few right things at elections rallies and interviews, and he may have performed better than he used to once, but the lack of spontaneity will show up. Top level politics is the 24X7 commitment, especially when you’re up against Modi. Making prompted statements in spurts won’t be enough to be Party President or PM.
- When you’re not genuine, things will go wrong and you’ll stand exposed. E.g., Rahul’s signature in non-Hindu Register during temple visit, and his claim of being a Brahmin Hindu. While religion does not normally matter for any politician, Rahul has tried to conceal it, and even now doesn’t answer directly, and people may not like it. The issue is not whether he’s a Hindu, but why he is not up front.
- BJP still has enough goodwill among the people across India, and so some level of performance deficit during the next 1 ½ year may still be overlooked, giving Modi another term in 2019 elections, unless BJP botches it up or Rahul does a rope trick overshadowing Modi’s goodwill. Merely questioning Modi, blocking Rajya Sabha and agitating won’t do; these could even work to Modi’s advantage.
- Overcoming corruption taint will be extremely difficult for the Congress. Redirecting corruption allegations at allies’ won’t work; people believe top Congress leaders had the major share in every loot. Let’s not forget that Rahul and Sonia are out on bail in NH case. And, in people’s court, no evidence is required; perception is all that matters.
- Favourable media, panelists and liberals can help Congress only to an extent. They did their best trying to project that Congress was gaining upper hand and BJP was losing ground in Gujarat. But Congress couldn’t translate it into reality; its best effort wasn’t adequate.
- Congress can win elections and grow only if there is an inner-party democracy. As long as its President is from the family, people, the stigma will remain.
- Dr MMS hasn’t exactly done the right things in Mani Shankar Iyer episode. Assuming he didn’t break the protocol in the letter, he did so in spirit. He should have played it safe and informed MEA. Despite his clean personal image, MMS lost his credibility (i) when he presided over a Government that indulged in corruption of Himalayan proportions, (ii) when Rahul tore a MMS Government policy paper, and (iii) when, it now transpires, Rahul was directing Jayanthi Natarajan on policy issues, over the shoulders of the PM and Ministers.
- Other Opposition parties (like Mamta, Mulayam, Mayawati, Akhilesh, Lallu, etc.,) are all almost as discredited as the Congress. The Left has lost the ideological battle. Kejriwal can’t ally with the Opposition after calling them all corrupt. And Nitish has walked out of the Opposition Camp. So, even if Congress is willing, there is no other leader behind whom the Opposition can rally.
- Even if Congress had won Gujarat elections, it may have disappointed Patidars because giving them reservation would have been impossible. And such reservation would have angered existing OBCs.
Lesson For BJP:
Success is usually a poor teacher. BJP has won but was bruised, which is an ideal environment to learn. Let’s hope it learns.
Modi will then be judged on how he handles these, by the same yardstick used for MMS. And this can be no excuse for non-delegation and lack of performance by Modi Government either
- BJP relies very heavily on Modi, almost like family parties rely on their Chiefs, which is not good. BJP should develop a strong second line leadership in the Centre and States. Modi needs to delegate a lot to deliver, meeting the expectations of the people; one man can only pull that much. More on this in my article: “Can Modi Improve Performance & Sweep 2019 Elections?”
- Even small persons like Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mewani and Alpesh Thakor could cause BJP hiccups. Modi can’t take his success for granted, despite TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor, because honeymoon period just got over.
- Modi had to spend some political capital in this election, which may not cost him immediately, but could cost significantly in the long run. E.g., (i) Releasing the Vision document just a day before the first phase, (ii) Conducting an unofficial road show after casting his vote, (iii) Strongly imputing motives to Dr MMS and others who attended the dinner talk at Mani Shankar Iyer’s residence. He can’t repeat such indiscretions.
- Gujarat model of development, conceived and executed using IAS officers, is not working as efficiently in the Centre. An improvised model is imperative. More on this in my article:“Six Suggestions For The PM”
- BJP didn’t have much to show by way of performance of the Gujarat Government after Modi’s exit. So, Modi had to resort to rhetorics like Rahul’s temple visit, Dr MMS episode etc. His goodwill has been almost fully encashed in this election. Performance is all that will matter henceforth.
- Modi Government has several accomplishments to its: JAM, voluminous Mudra Loans for the poor, eAuction of natural resources like 2G & Coal, Preventing several leakages, Free LPG connection to the poor, Power sector reforms making State EBs viable, Reaching power to villages, Mega Highway Projects, Crop Insurance, etc, without any high-level corruption charges (yet?). These accomplishments have not been adequately highlighted to the public through Infomercials, Mann Ki Baath and Spokespersons’ defence during TV debates. the opposition has been spreading disinformation that Modi Government has accomplished nothing. ‘Demonetisation’ and GST implementation received thumbs-down among ujarati business community, but Modi was willing to take that risk, and these are one-off measures anyway.
- Resolution of issues like Agrarian Distress, Is doubling of Farmer’s income possible by 2022, Unemployment, SC-ST-OBC Reservation issues, Women’s Reservation, Housing For All, etc need to be addressed on a war footing and talked about extensively. Lack of finance for these projects is not the only reason they remain unimplemented. Proper delegation to Ministers and review may have helped.
- The average Indian is truly secular. Fair representation should be given to minorities in Parliament, Government, and key decision making bodies, in line with Modi’s ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas’ policy.
- Corruption cases against netas and bureaucrats across India should be speeded up. Lok Pal should be set up and encouraged to function. There’s a strong impression that bureaucracy is protecting the corrupt, and the Government is just watching.
Though there is no major corruption charge against BJP bigwigs yet, there will surely be some, in future. Modi will then be judged on how he handles these, by the same yardstick used for MMS. And this can be no excuse for non-delegation and lack of performance by Modi Government either. People will henceforth be more demanding.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.