BJP’s Invincibility Challenged
The only silver lining from the recently concluded elections for the two Assemblies is that the BJP’s numbers have dwindled in Gujarat, a state known as the laboratory for the right wing ideas. The outcome in Himachal Pradesh is much on predictable lines. The BJP had bragged about raising its score to 150 in 182-member House. But it is now down to 99 from the previous (2012 election’s) 115. The Congress having won 77 (plus three won by its allies) has closed the gap in a big way.
The message coming out from the hustings is that the BJP’s invincibility’s has been successfully challenged and the 2019 General Election outcome will be open for guess. The Congress has tremendously improved its tally in a State where the BJP had five straight wins and the younger generation had no idea of any other party having ever ruled the state.
But BJP’s win is testimony to its strength in the State which was perhaps number two among the worst-affected states due to Demonetisation and the GST following Maharashtra. Massive turnout at Hardik Patel’s rallies too had indicated turning of the tide against the BJP in Prime Minister’s own state. But it seems anger and discontent against the BJP has not yet reached such levels that they could go for a change. It is one thing to be disillusioned, and much different to unhinge from the party they have backed for long. People, mainly the Hindu middle class, would still like to stick to the BJP. Their interests, they believe, are inextricably entwined with the BJP’s continuance in power, at least as of now. The rallies against the GST in Surat and other cities, did indicate this class’s indignation against the BJP but when it came to voting, it still felt the party was a better bet than Congress.
Given this background, the Congress has a long road to tread before it could win the confidence of the urban middle class. It has to overhaul its strategy to retain the old loyalists and add new adherents. For this to happen, the party will have to get closer to youth. Perhaps Mr. Rahul Gandhi, the new President of the party, understands this much better than anyone else. A quarter century of economic liberalization has brought about a sea change in aspirations of the youth all across India. Ironically, the Congress which heralded these policies has itself grown oblivious of the ground that has shifted from beneath its feet.
The verdict in Gujarat makes it evident that people cannot be taken for granted. Parties, ideologues and politicians need to keep their antennae up in the air to feel the changes and mould their strategies in tandem with popular aspirations.