By Santosh Bhartiya
The campaign for Gujarat election is in full swing. Things are changing thick and fast. Stage is set for BJP and Congress face off. Hardik Patel emerged as an important player. He is young, but being young is not enough in politics. If you are in politics, it is important to have a political acumen and the political acumen comes with experience. I am saying these things because the Congress and Hardik Patel arrived at an agreement vis-à-vis Patidar Reservation. Hardik support to Congress was hanging in balance for long time. Now it is a done deal and Hardik has announced his support for the Congress, but this is not the news. The news is the Congress has assured Hardik that after coming to power, Congress will bring a bill for Patidar reservation in the Assembly. But the question remain as to how could they bring it? How will the Congress arrange reservation for Patidars by crossing 50 percent limit set by the Supreme Court? Most importantly did Hardik Patel not understand this fact? Hardik Patel says that he has consulted experts who told him that more 50 percent reservation is possible. Now the question bobs up: Is Hardik Patel wiser than the Supreme Court?
Hardik indeed has got himself tangled in a political trap, which become difficult for him to disentangle. Precisely due to this fact he has to accept the verbal assurance from the Congress and extend his support to the party, which is expressive of Hardik’s incompetence, ignorance and immaturity in politics. Not being able to look beyond non-Congress and non-BJP alternatives is his biggest folly. It seems a third front was never part of his scheme of things. To oppose the BJP, he banked so heavily on the Congress that he could not put pressure on it, whereas the Congress exploited his weaknesses and secure his support on mere verbal assurance. In this entire process Hardik’s gain is verbal assurance. Another entanglement for Hardik is that what if Congress’s verbal assurances prove similar to be a BJP’s election jumla. The track record of the Congress’s work for minority communities since Independence suggests that their assurances remain only assurances.
On the other hand, the weakness of the Congress was manifested in the fact that it had not tried to unite non-BJP forces on one platform. Maybe this is owing to its over-confidence. The Congress has not given any importance to political forces like NCP, Shankar Singh Vaghela, Aam Aadmi Party in Gujarat. Indeed they will fight elections and evidently cause division in anti-BJP votes, which will hamper the chances of Congress. Apart from this, Congress has failed to establish a single state level leader in Gujarat on whose face the party can contest election in the state. Shankar Singh Vaghela was one such leader with statewide acceptability, but the Congress made a situation for him to part ways. Perhaps for this reason, Rahul Gandhi had to become the face of the Congress.
However, the Congress and Rahul Gandhi are under false impression about the crowd Rahul Gandhi’s rallies are attracting. The crowd that turns out in his rallies is not turning out because people are influenced by Congress’s policies. They are coming because of their disappointment with BJP’s policies; this is the crowd, which grew weary of 22 years of BJP rule, especially of the rein of the last two Chief Ministers. But the Congress is making mistake of considering these people as its voters, which may cost dearly for the party. Even then if the Congress wins in Gujarat, it would be like securing windfall. The victory will not be the victory of Congress’s hard work, its policy or its strategy.
While writing these lines it appears “advantage BJP”. The Congress camp is disoriented. It is not clear how many of the old Congressmen have become active, but new people have definitely associated with them. This may be a cause of worry for old party workers. This is the new Congress, which includes Jignesh, Alpesh Thakor and Hardik Patel. So they are apprehensive about the name of chief minister in case the Congress emerges victorious: Is it someone from the trio of Jignesh, Alpesh and Hardik, or Rahul Gandhi will experiment with Sam Pitroda as the Chief Minister. It is advantage BJP, because the party is gradually bring its house in order and regaining some lost grounds. The BJP has made the impression that Narendra Modi is the face of Gujarat. If he or BJP lost Gujarat, then it will be bring down image of Gujarat across the world. This sentiment is being spread more and more among the trader community.
Second, news from Himachal is not encouraging for the BJP. The poor has voted for the Congress, therefore Himachal election has become uncertain. What the poor of Gujarat thinks is unclear, but if the poor of Gujarat too start thinking that they have not benefited, then the BJP in Gujarat can be in trouble. To fill the lacunae the BJP has another remedy: the gulf between Hindus and Muslims has widened in last 20-30 years, and the party is trying to reignite the same divide in Gujarat. In villages BJP and RSS volunteers are spreading the rumors that if the BJP loses, the Congress will implement only the Muslim’s agenda. There is a new concern to the BJP that Rahul Gandhi is not talking about Muslims or communal riots. He is visiting temples. The BJP watch this issue slipping away from under it arm, because it feels that Rahul Gandhi is trying to convince the people of Gujarat that he too is with non-Muslim classes, sect or communities. This contradiction has somewhat unsettled the BJP’s scheme, that is why they have to plan 30 public meetings of the prime minister. Now it is altogether a different matter that the people have manifested their anger against BJP leaders in Gujarat, which is not shown on TV; such reporting in newspapers is also few and far between. It is social media which is bringing all these things in public.
I have seen such video clips on social media, in which the angry people are shown asking something to BJP leaders. Indeed it is not democratic way to ask questions, but social media is saying that people are so angry that they raise questions wherever they get BJP leaders. I cannot authenticate whether these videos are sponsored or genuine. But this situation prevails somewhere in Gujarat. If that is not the case, then the election of Gujarat would have become a one-sided affair by now. The television channels or survey agencies that initially predicted one-sided election and given the Congress 20-25 seats are now avoid showing all these news, they are just showing debate. Now the Opinion Polls may come, but they are not coming now.
The news is that the battle is being waged for 2 percent of the votes. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to be used to bring those 2 percent votes, then the victory of BJP in Gujarat will be a tainted victory. Here we found that performance of governments, their handling of law and order situation, and their overall image stand for the people’s scrutiny. Neither the Congress nor the BJP enunciated any new issue to the voters of Gujarat. Both of them are silent as to what do they do for the livelihood of the people of Gujarat or what improvement will they bring in the lives of common people. Indeed there are educational institutions in Gujarat, but they are for the wealthy. There are health facilities, but they are for the wealthy. What about poor? Perhaps the poor of Gujarat is asking as to what the government has done for their education, their health and their livelihood? Will they make any promise? These questions are not coming to centre stage of the election, but these issues associated with the common people. Let us see behind whom these people throw their weight on these questions: the Congress or the BJP.