The one single thing that the 6.5 crore Gujaratis — that Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps harping upon — have done is to deliver a fright, and a wake-up call, to the BJP. And bring the Congress near a respectable distance to victory in a region which has been out of its grasp for the last 22 years.
As for the BJP, even the very thought of a possible defeat in Gujarat in the backdrop of disenchantment with the ruling party through the unusual combination of the rural (agri distress) and the urban (small and medium traders), who form the backbone of BJP’s support, must have given sleepless nights to its top netas . The body language of senior BJP leaders barely a week before the polls gave ample evidence of this.
And hence the powerful duo of the BJP and the two most prominent sons of the soil — Modi and BJP president Amit Shah —once again embraced the adage ‘All is fair in love and war’ and pulled out all the tricks up their sleeve to win the battle. Win they did, but after what kind of manoeuvring, what kind of pushing the political discourse to a new low? — that will go into the history of Indian politics.The Amit Shah touch
In admirably deft manoeuvres, Shah took charge of the urban areas, particularly towns such as Surat, Ahmedabad and Vadodara, where the BJP’s erstwhile friend — the business community — was upset with the BJP for the double whammy of demonetisation and GST. For what is Gujarat without its traders; dhanda ni vaat karo (spell out your business strategy/deal) is the most common lingo of a Gujarati.
According to street gossip in these places, Amitbhai met some key and influential business people in this sector and assured them that the BJP Government, both at the Centre and the State, will take some novel initiatives to revive the dampened business sentiment.
And then of course there was the old political trick, used by every political party worth its salt, including of course the Congress... use money or muscle power to throw in a couple of independents in the fray in strategic constituencies where the contest is too close to call, and reap the dividend of cutting into the opponent’s voteshare. A couple of thousand such votes denied to the opponent can do the trick, as indeed happened a few constituencies.
For instance, in Godhra, which has a whopping 22-23 per cent Muslim vote, with five Muslim candidates in the fray taking away 4,300-odd Muslim votes, which would have otherwise gone to the Congress candidate, the BJP won by a slim margin of 258 votes.Enter Modi
In the midst of what was once its darling State transforming into rough waters to navigate for the BJP, and noting that the army of BJP netas , including Union Ministers and State chief ministers were not getting much ghaas from the Gujarat electorate, the PM himself stepped in, and addressed an enormous number of rallies.
With a Congress leader like Mani Shankar Aiyer and some non-entity called Salman Nizami lending a hand with gratituous comments from the former like neech kism ka aadmi . The PM, in a voice choked with emotion, challenged Gujarati pride and thundered: Are you just going to sit back and do nothing about such insults the Congress is heaping on him, their one and only?
And then, just before the cut-off date, Modi took the campaign to a new low; charged Manmohan Singh, former Vice-President Hamid Ansari and a former Army chief of “conspiring” with Pakistan to install a Congress government in Gujarat. The very grotesqueness of a present PM accusing his immediate predecessor of treason, if not sedition, is a new in India politics.
On countng day, we had a triumphant textiles minister Smriti Irani ordering the two anchors of a TV channel to stop their “verbal diarrhoea” when asked why the party had failed to go near the 150 seats projected, and declared majestically: Jo jeeta wohi Sikander (The winner takes it all).
For BJP, the Sikander, who once used to be AB Vajpayee is now Narendra Modi. The two leaders in their disposition and style of functioning are as different as chalk from cheese.
But this time around, the going for the BJP in Gujarat was so tough that but for the PM’s oratorical skills, and a campaign with no holds barred, the outcome in Gujarat could have been different. Hence, each passing day makes Modi more valuable to the BJP.
Hopefully, Gujarat will get an effective government in place that will hold communal peace and harmony as has been done in the last 15 years. To some people like me, dhanda takes only second place to that single-most important factor.