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'BJP's Gujarat victory defies logic'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
December 08, 2022 19:47 IST
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'The Gujarat results show a wide chasm between the issues facing the common people and the way the BJP engineers electoral successes.'

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party Supremo and Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi greets voters at a roadshow for the Gujarat assembly election at Karnavati, Ahmedabad, December 1, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo

"I have been travelling throughout Gujarat and people have been complaining about issues of real-life existence pinching them hard. So, one should not try to find out any logic or reasons behind such a victory."

Gujarati writer and political satirist Urvish Kothari discusses the Bharatiya Janata Party's triumph in the assembly election with Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com.

 

How do you look at BJP's magnificent sweep in Gujarat?

The BJP's Gujarat victory defies logic, common sense. This can be explained in so many ways, but it doesn't serve any common sense.

Despite real-life issues of unemployment, inflation, poverty, malnutrition, where the BJP has not delivered on its promises, the party is performing so spectacularly in the polls. It really defies logic.

In a way, the Gujarat results show a wide chasm between the issues facing the common people and the way the BJP engineers electoral successes.

There are so many factors at play here and many people are still trying to get around their heads as to why and how the BJP defies anti-incumbency.

According to me, there is something basic missing from people's perception of the BJP. People ignore so many major failures of the BJP at the Centre and in Gujarat, and even how they play the communal card to win elections, but such a huge sweep still defies logic.

I have been travelling throughout Gujarat and people have been complaining about issues of real-life existence pinching them hard. So, one should not try to find out any logic or reasons behind such a victory.

There is a basic instinct (of the people of Gujarat) at play here. One should not ascribe this success to the great work done by the BJP or Modi magic. It was there in earlier elections too, but the BJP never scaled the 150 plus mark.

Honestly, it will take months and years to digest and understand the BJP getting 150 plus.

Did the Congress allow the BJP's clean sweep by not challenging it enough before or during the elections?

In 2017, there was a very palpable anti-BJP sentiment, or, rather a pro-Patidar agitation sentiment in Gujarat. Rahul Gandhi extensively campaigned in Gujarat then and created a soft-Hindutva image for the Congress with his temple-hopping tours.

In 2017, there was a sense of anticipation that the BJP could be defeated or at least restricted in its victory margin; that the Congress and the Patidars were giving the BJP a tough electoral time.

Though, anecdotal evidence did suggest that the Congress's silent campaign would work wonders for the party the way it turned out proves that it was not to be. This time there was lack of campaigning in Congress.

How much did AAP contribute to BJP's electoral record in Gujarat this time?

There was wide speculation that AAP might eat into BJP's urban vote base in Gujarat's towns and cities, but the way results have shaped out it is evident that they ate into the Congress's vote share.

135 people died in the Morbi bridge collapse, yet BJP candidate Kantilal Amrutiya is set for a victory from the Morbi constituency. What explains this performance at the micro level?

That is what I have been saying. The BJP victory margin defies logic.

You are talking about Morbi, but Gujarat suffered worse during COVID-19. Even they turned that narrative on its head and convinced people about the exemplary services the offered during 2020-2021 when the state government had failed miserably.

There's something that we don't understand, but plays out in people's (Gujarati voters') mind that puts a blanket cover on the BJP's failures and gives it electoral victories.

The BJP can turn out to be utter failure, but still the people don't turn hostile enough against them to throw them out of Gujarat.

Do statements like 'taught them a lesson' that the Union home minister made at one of his public meetings help the BJP?

Such statements or such communal polarisation cannot be singularly responsible for the BJP sweeping the elections with such a huge majority. That sentiment (of teaching a lesson), even if it is unspoken, has always been the core of BJP's success in Gujarat.

Even if Amit Shah had not made such a statement what people (in Gujarat) like the most about the BJP is that 'taught them a lesson, or will teach them a lesson' narrative that the BJP has so well ingrained in the minds of voters in the state since it began its Hindutva experiments in the state.

Does the Muslim vote in Gujarat matter at all?

In subsequent elections (since 2002) it has been observed that it doesn't matter at all.

It was being said that the Muslim votes would consolidate following Amit Shah's statement, but even if that were to become a reality I don't know how many seats could have been won based on that consolidation.

The Congress looks like almost decimated, at least electorally, in Gujarat. Is the BJP succeeding in making Gujarat Congress-mukt?

The BJP in Gujarat today is Congress-yukt BJP. The BJP might have succeeded in decimating the Congress, the political party, but in the process the party has imbibed the Congress culture.

The BJP in Gujarat has been very welcoming of Congress leaders joining their fold. They have no opposition to anybody in the Congress who is not from the Gandhi family.

Who knows, one day they can also plan to get Rahul Gandhi join the BJP (laughs). Basically, though, the BJP is no different from the Congress; their political cultures remain the same.

Making Gujarat Congress-mukt doesn't make Gujarat mukt of Congress culture.

How would you explain the bonding between the people of Gujarat and Narendra Modi?

Modi's claim to fame in Gujarat is predominantly based on his anti-Muslim stance. You may call it anything or try to explain this bonding with any other phenomenon, eventually, according to me it boils down to Modi's anti-Muslim stance.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
 
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