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Baazigar O Baazigar!

Last updated on: December 18, 2017 15:07 IST

Saisuresh Sivaswamy's 5 quick takeaways from an election whose ripples will be felt in the 8 states going to elections in 2018, and even beyond, into 2019.

Rahul Gandhi

The Gujarat election results have been acting like a pendulum, swinging this way and that before finally making it clear that the Bharatiya Janata Party will win its 6th assembly election on the trot.

For some time, however briefly, it seemed that the Congress may spring a surprise on the BJP, with the trends indicating that the ruling party was trailing behind just a wee bit.

BJP supporters have been quick to seize on the election victory, pointing out that a win is a win, never mind the margin or scale.

 

That fits in neatly with the take-no-prisoners political philosophy espoused by the Modi-Shah duo that is perpetually in election campaign mode, never mind the state, never mind the mandate.

Like they did in Goa last year where even an electoral defeat did not deter them from forming a government.

But Gujarat is different.

It is the home of Prime Minister Narendra D Modi who has loomed over the state like a colossus ever since he was pitchforked into the chief ministership in 2001.

In the last assembly election in 2012 the state gave him 115 MLAs. This time with him as prime minister, the target was a lot steeper, at 150.

Why 150? Because that's what is needed to overhaul the biggest-ever mandate won in Gujarat, 149 seats, by the Congress' Madhavsinh Solanki riding high on the caste configuration of KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim).

The BJP's Mandir agitation blunted this hitherto unbeatable social mix, but it could never surpass it in electoral acceptability.

BJP President Amit A Shah hoped that a heady combination of Modi's appeal, the usual glib talk of 'vikas', both underscored by the party's fallback principle, polarisation, would power it beyond Solanki's record.

But it clearly hasn't.

There are multiple messages from the Gujarat election results, but those who believe this is an unqualified backing for either Modi, or the BJP, need a lesson in honest introspection. Or maybe even a session with the Margdarshak Mandal.

In the meantime, here are 5 quick takeaways from an election whose ripples will be felt in the 8 states going to elections in 2018, and even beyond, into 2019.

1. No Congress-mukht Bharat

Forget Congress-free India, even Gujarat was not, is not, and will not be rid of the Congress.

How do you wish the irrelevance of a party which, in 2012, won 39.93% of the votes cast, and actually hiked its voteshare to 41.7% in the current round of electioneering?

As shibboleths go, this one may sound catchy but is clearly based on a fond hope, not reality.

2. Modi's magic has its limits

Ever since he led the BJP to a remarkable win in the 2014 Lok Sabha, the BJP has relied on his charisma and appeal to seal state after state in its favour.

There may have been setbacks in Delhi and in Bihar, but overall Modi remains his party's biggest electoral mascot.

And a massive like in Uttar Pradesh last year only seals the reputation.

But the Congress has showed that even his winnability has its limits, and that the BJP can be stretched.

If this can happen in Modi-Shah's home state, it only spells good news for the Opposition in other states.

3. Gujarat is no more a BJP gadh

Has the Congress muffed its best chance in years to dethrone the BJP in Gujarat?

Is there anything the party could have done differently to make the outcome in its favour?

The planetary and other configurations actually favoured the Congress this time, in the form of powerful social groups aligning against the BJP, something that may not come about five years hence.

Be it the campaign of the dispossessed segments led by Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani, or the demand for affirmative action led by the Patidars, or the voices of distress from the small and medium business enterprises reeling under the twin strikes of note ban and GST, there is a chorus of protest against BJP policy both at the Centre and the state.

Voices, and anguish, it can only ignore to its peril.

4. BJP can be beaten

Is the BJP invincible? Hardly.

A rare combination of the Congress in retreat, other Opposition parties in confusion and a clever double-decker ideology of overlaying communal polarisation with development, which draws the lumpen as well as the laity, has been working wonders for it.

But when the fight is reduced to one-on-one, the results are not as fantastic as they are in a multi-pronged fight like in UP.

And therein lies the message for the non-BJP Opposition. United they stand, divided they fall. And the BJP gains.

5. Rahul is no Pappu

For years now the newly appointed Congress president has been the butt of some vicious and vindictive campaign by the BJP's tertiary members and fan club. Its Gujarat campaign, in fact, seemed as though it was fighting Rahul Gandhi and not the Congress.

Which begs the question: Why would your big artillery go after a man who the right-wing trolls spend their waking hours ridiculing?

Because Modi-Shah know that the Gandhi-Nehru family is the glue that holds the Congress together. Unravel it, and the party is over.

And whether he has been coached by a former Constitutional dignitary as is rumoured or not, Rahul Gandhi seems to have realised that the fight against Modi-Shah needs to focus on their weakest link, 'Vikas', which has so far remained a vision, mirage.

He has traded barb for barb, refusing to hit below the belt in a fight where Queensberry rules don't apply.

In that sense, this election has seen Rahul Gandhi come of age.

He has faced up to Modi, taken it on the chin, and stood up again.

Forget 150, the BJP is struggling to touch even 115, its 2012 tally.

So yes, if ever there was a fight where the loser walks away with the honours, Gujarat 2017 is it.

As Shah Rukh Khan summed up in one of his films, 'Haar ke jeetne wale ko baazigar kehte hain.'

Saisuresh Sivaswamy / Rediff.com