At this juncture, the decision given by his voters in the Prime Minister’s home state carries several valuable messages for the BJP
Whether electorally or in terms of governance or overall politics, any way you look at it the Gujarat verdict has come at a perfect time for Narendra Modi. The Modi-led NDA govt is way past its half-way mark now. A lot remains to be done and there isn’t much time. At this juncture, the decision given by his voters in the Prime Minister’s home state carries several valuable messages for the BJP as well as the NDA govt and its policies.
First and foremost, what the govt can take heart is that the economic reforms, no matter how disruptive, have not been rejected by the voters. And this despite the opposition and other elements carrying on an endless tirade country-wide. Demonetisation had already cleared the Uttar Pradesh test but the jitters over Gujarat were natural. This was the first big election after the Goods and Services Tax rolls out across the country. Gabbar Singh Tax may have tickled the crowds and inspired a dozen memes on youtube but it certainly did not help the Congress win. Ditto for notebandi. The BJP’s impressive 15 out 16 wins in Surat has already been quoted widely since the result day. Of course, Surat is one of the more important trading hubs of the country. It is also the nerve center of diamond and textile, two of the most labor-intensive industries. Surat also witnessed continuous trouble over GST and then perhaps the longest shutdown over it.
It is relevant to add here that the GST track is all set to get smoother and easier in the coming days.
But it’s not just about Surat. Considering the place Gujarat enjoys in the trading circles of the country, one can now safely argue that any unrest or anger over GST has not reached the stage when the voters would vent their ire on the govt. They are obviously ready to go through the procedural exercise for a cleaner, healthy economy. It is relevant to add here that the GST track is all set to get smoother and easier in the coming days. One can therefore safely say that the worst is over for the govt on the GST front.
With the Gujarat test cleared and done, expect Modi to proceed faster and more confidently on the reforms trajectory. In fact, a small trailer was already visible when FM Arun Jaitley made the center’s intentions clear on bringing oil prices under GST. Contrariwise a loss in Gujarat could have created hurdles for the bold and forward-looking economic reforms to which the PM and his govt seem committed. The govt would now make the most of the time in their hands to push these reforms with a clear mind.
As for the rural distress, particularly, in the farm sector, it is being argued that the voting pattern in Gujarat has clearly raised an alarm. The thrust on agriculture and allied activities needs to be given priority at this stage. Experts have argued that the govt would be advised not to go for short-term, piecemeal measures such as just raising the MSP but examine ways of pushing investment and alternative income avenues for people engaged in farming.
On the jobs front too, this verdict couldn’t have come a day sooner. The jobs crisis is ‘real’ because regular jobs in the formal sector are getting lesser but the govt’s efforts at encouraging self-employment through MUDRA, Start-Ups, and Skilling initiatives haven’t started showing satisfactory tangible results. Since ensuring more jobs in the formal sector is a dicey proposition, the best option would be to cut the bureaucracy now and give a heavier push to the self-employment ventures. Only then can the PM’s dream of building a job creator vs job giver economy takes shape.
The BJP govt in Gujarat was fighting its toughest election with 22 years of incumbency being just one of the dozen-odd challenges.
Moving away from the political economy to the social equations, a second look at the voting patterns of Patidar-dominated assemblies clearly shows that the community did not actually vote for quotas en masse. There are conflicting and contrary voting details and no clear pattern for the reservation here. In fact, the dissatisfaction over farm prices and related issues seems to have been the bigger losing factors for the BJP in Saurashtra (the only region where the incumbent govt scored fewer seats than the Congress). This, at least, is an indication that bowing to competitive quota politics and pressures should be a no-no even in other states. It is clear from Gujarat that while political parties can ignore caste movements at their own peril, one must always take a holistic view and not bow down to demands without judging all the pros and cons. There are similar cases of unrest among dominant castes in other states. I think the center’s move to go for sub-categorization of OBCs if started on time, could go a long way in empowering those who haven’t reaped the benefits of reservation and rationalizing the quota complexities. It could be a watershed move in the changed social and economic scenario.
While the Gujarat verdict has given the Congress some much-needed moral supplement to put up a spirited fight in other state elections, its leader Rahul Gandhi may have just started overdoing it when he says the PM has lost all ‘credibility’ and then declare that nobody wants to listen to Modiji anymore. Rahul’s team of experts would do well to show him the relevant data so that he understands one stark reality. And that is that the BJP govt in Gujarat was fighting its toughest election with 22 years of incumbency being just one of the dozen-odd challenges. If the people of Gujarat still did not vote out the party and stopped short of handing power to the Congress, it is only because they listened to ‘Modiji’. The political interpretation is plain and simple. They may have complaints with Modiji but they clearly have faith in his leadership more than anyone else.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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