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Gujarat Verdict Puts BJP in Dilemma

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MOHAMMAD NAUSHAD KHAN analyses the results of recent Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and concludes that by falling two short of the 2007 figure of 117 Modi has failed to galvanise the BJP and its cadre for his ambitious bigger role for 2014 general elections.

The pitch in the BJP camp subsided to some extent when the final tally was out. The Gujarat verdict has numerically confused and even after the third consecutive win the writings on the wall for Narendra Modi, and his party and parivar appears to be more perplexed than ever before. The reaction from the BJP camp was little bit cautious and most of them avoided questions on role of Narendra Modi in the BJP beyond Gujarat.

Both the Congress and the BJP have got something to count on and introspect from the outcome of assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. For Narendra Modi, elections in Gujarat was a litmus test for his bigger role on the national stage and by falling two short of the 2007 figure of 117 Modi has failed to galvanise the BJP and its cadre for his ambitious bigger role for 2014 general elections. Leaders from the BJP who are supposed to be overtly or covertly against projecting Modi as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls have now got ample reasons to oppose while citing one criterion or the other required for the bigger role for a country like India. It is true that recipes required for state elections cannot be the same for general elections as it differs from one meal to another.         

All the pre- and post-poll surveys were more than confident that Modi might cross the figure of 117. One may not fail to understand the rhetoric behind the numbers. If we go by the tally available, it becomes evident that Modi got 10 seats less in 2007 (117) as compared to 2002 tally of 227. And this year in 2012 it has further gone down by two seats, i.e. 115. On the contrary, Madhav Singh Solanki of Congress had won 141 seats in Gujarat in 1980 and 149 in 1985. However, Modi in best of his times that is when Gujarat was most polarised won 127 seats in 2002.

In Maninagar, which is Modi’s constituency, Modi had won by the margin of 87,161 votes in 2007 which has come down to 86,373 in 2012. It is thus evident that the development plank of Modi did not work as it was being projected. These numbers do not catapult Modi straightway to stake his claim for a bigger role in the national politics. The only thing the BJP is expected to do is to give him some important role in the coming 2014 elections along with others without projecting any prime ministerial candidate.

Fighting elections at the cost of allies by making Narendra Modi their prime ministerial candidate may boomerang because every state has its own political configuration, limitations and caste combinations. There are possibly two camps in the BJP. One section in the BJP is pro-Modi and hell-bent to declare him as the prime ministerial material but the other view goes against him for the reason that under any circumstances the party may not afford to lose its allies. Coalition politics will dominate for some more times and would not be in the interest of the party to go alone.         

In his victory speech, Modi was not as emphatic as he used to be and after decoding what he said one may get the impression that he was in a conciliatory mode for the simple reason for an image makeover. By all means he tried to equate the verdict as pan India but that was not equally reciprocated by senior leaders of the party in Delhi. Modi was also apologetic for his past mistakes but it was confusing as nobody got a message as to what he was apologetic for. Road ahead for Modi is full of obstacles coming from RSS and the BJP itself. For many his authoritarian style of functioning will do more harm than good to the party.

Modi, while making his speech in Hindi, wanted to put the message on board what he was aspiring for. After sadbhawana in Gujarat the BJP claimed that this time minorities have voted for Modi which has been rejected by Muslims as false and contrary to ground reality. Dr. Shakeel Ahmad, Chairman of Islami Relief Committee Gujarat, while speaking to Radiance, said that the claim made by the BJP has got no substance and it is only propaganda to confuse people. On Congress’ continuing defeat in the State he said that in many constituencies Congress candidates lost because the party failed to field suitable candidates.       

After every election there are a plenty of scopes to introspect for every political party. The Congress can be happy with its performance in Himachal Pradesh but at the same time needs to analyse why its strategy in Gujarat failed on the desired lines even after Keshubhai Patel was thought to dent Modi’s vote share. Last minute appearance of Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat elections reveals the seriousness of the party in Gujarat. Mr. Mujtaba Farooque, president Welfare Party of India, while talking to Radiance, said that the hoopla of BJP that Modi registered his third consecutive victory on development plank and the party may look for throwing this development issue on the national stage is in order to project Modi as potential prime ministerial candidate. He further said that the Congress is not serious enough in its strategy against BJP but instead trying to harm other secular regional parties to keep the two-party system relevant on the national stage.        

The Congress, it seems, slowly and steadily, losing the regional hold and struggling to keep its regional presence intact. It was out of power in Gujarat in 1995, it has failed to come to power in Uttar Pradesh since 1989, its performance in Bihar and West Bengal has gone down. No doubt, Congress party needs some serious soul searching about its strategy in the coming general elections. But the big question: will the 2014 election be Rahul verses Modi contest and is Congress prepared for it? Dr. S Q R Ilyas, Co-convenor, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, while talking to Radiance, said that the verdict of Gujarat elections will have some impact on the national polity and the projection of Modi may eventually help the Congress because Congress might claim that the only party that can protect the Muslims from Modi is Congress.

He also opined that some leaders in RSS and BJP may come in the way of Modi because of his authoritarian style of functioning and also may not be acceptable to allies like JD-U. It is beyond doubt that Nitish Kumar and his party members have on many occasions categorically stated its position and what it appears from earlier statements made by leaders of JD-U that the party in no way will accept Modi as the prime ministerial candidate of the NDA in the upcoming 2014 polls.

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