No matter the playing field, BJP wins and Congress loses
Whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power in the Gandhinagar municipal corporation or won 136 of the 184 seats in local bodies, largely in cities and peri-urban settlements, is not unexpected . The Gujarat media reportedly had their reports on Tuesday’s election results ready almost 24 hours in advance, if not more.
From 1995, when the BJP alone came to power in Gujarat, until December 2017, the party’s electoral victories were generally a given.
It’s a different matter that between 2014 (when Narendra Modi moved to Delhi) and 2021, the BJP had three chief ministers in Gujarat. It is also another matter that there is no dearth of problems – both state and national level – which affect almost all sections of the population of Gujarat; questions that would have seen any other party bite the dust.
The latest addition was the chaos of COVID-19. This, too, the government survived thanks to the cosmetic change in the face of the Chief Minister.
Gujarat’s new chief minister, Bhupendra Patel, said at a press conference on Tuesday: “We got 41 seats out of 44, but the president of our state, CR Paatil Saheb, asked why we didn’t got the other three. It’s because he’s aiming [for] 182 of 182. Neither of the two previous chief ministers used the word “saheb” to address the President of the State party. But then, when it comes to Gujarat, that’s not the point.
Political scientist and economist Hemant Shah summed it up: “The Hindutva injection is almost like an anti-Congress vaccine for the people of Gujarat. The BJP has a well-oiled network and cadres as well as a whole machinery of government which it uses with impunity – but even if it does not deploy any, Hindutva will succeed.
Hemant Shah, however, may not be quite right.
First, the numbers. Under Narendra Modi’s aggressive Hindutva, the BJP won 127 out of 182 seats in 2002. This number fell to 117 in 2007, 115 in 2012 and 99 in 2017.
When the BJP high command decided to replace Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and his entire team last month, the benchmark was the 2017 polls. Recall that the BJP then snatched victory from the clutches of defeat with seven sorry seats. This despite the fact that Modi himself campaigned in Gujarat during the crucial final days.
All the issues like unemployment, the plight of farmers and the adverse effects of the double blow of demonetization and the GST, which then created obstacles for the BJP, were very present in the 2019 elections in Lok Sabha. That is, until the terrorist strike in Pulwama and the government’s response to it. It is common knowledge that when it comes to nationalism and with it the Hindu-Muslim divide in place, no one can beat Modi’s rhetoric.
However, there is one essential difference. The BJP hasn’t forgotten its close shave with the 2017 loss, and Congress has stifled its own winning sparkle. The decimation was hastened when several congressional lawmakers defected from the BJP in regular succession.
Congress emerged as a veritable group of suicide bombers, ready to self-destruct, without collateral damage to each other in the municipal elections of February 2021.
The Congress party lost up to 200 seats in these elections, a few days before the poll. Defeat was conceded in some of those seats because the nominations were rejected, but there were more candidates who withdrew their forms on the last day. Besides these 200, there were also those who changed allegiance at the eleventh hour, despite having obtained the mandate of the party.
The results demonstrated the disarray in which the key opposition found itself: by winning 389 seats out of 572 in 2015, the BJP won 483 in 2021 and Congress went from 174 to 55. With the exception of Ahmedabad and of Jamnagar, Congress could not even achieve double. figures. None of its candidates won in Surat and the Aam Aadmi party came away with 27 seats.
At the same time, Congress’ claim that AAP and AIMIM turned out to be the BJP team was not entirely unfounded. However, as political scientist Ghanshyam Shah puts it, “they [AAP and AIMIM] enter the space that Congress gives them.
Tuesday’s results explain how the AAP turns out to be a spoiler for Congress when it hasn’t been able to do much itself. Congress spokesman Manish Doshi backed up his party’s argument with voting shares. He said: “The BJP this time managed 46.89% of the vote in GMC, against 28.02% for Congress and 21.77% for the AAP. In the 2016 elections, the BJP won 44.76% and Congress 46.93% of the total votes cast.
This makes it clear, he adds, that the anti-BJP vote was split by the AAP, in favor of the BJP. Meanwhile, Hemant Shah noted, “While the AAP only got one seat, it desperately split the anti-nomination vote. If the AAP – and Congress – want an alternative to BJP, they must unite. But AAP is not bothered.
It may not be the end of the road for Congress, receiving a silver lining as it pocketed Bhanvad Municipality in Devbhoomi Dwarka District as well as several assorted rural seats across regions.
This article was originally published on The vibrations of India.