Make or break Gujarat election
by G B Reddy on 29 Nov 2017 3 Comments

The Gujarat State Assembly election is a make or break election and includes as its main actors the various party high commands, candidates, narrow sectarian groups, partisan media, and many others operating behind the scenes. More importantly, its outcome will determine the course or curse of politics of modern India: social harmony without which the national unity vital for development is impossible, particularly when confronted by dynastic propagation and populism based on caste, communal and class coalitions.


It is undeniable that highly polarized and populist politics at the national level are contra to national security interests. How can national unity be possible with a divided social fabric? Also, to expect bitterly acrimonious leaders on all sides, in ruthless pursuit of power by hook or by crook, to forgive, forget and sink their bitter rivalry and forge consensus through debate, negotiation and conciliation is a forlorn hope. Democracy will be the ultimate loser.


Considering the high voltage-cum-high stakes campaigning, it is not so easy to predict the possible outcome at this stage of campaigning. Also, media reports reveal a free flow of money and liquor all over the state, which is really a menace for democracy.


Fake or fraud media sensationalism is making waves round the clock. Free-for-all allegations and counter-allegations, quite vicious and unsubstantiated, fly around, including in the social media, and add to the confusion and vicarious entertainment. Already allegations of EVM manipulation favoring the BJP are making the rounds.  


As per reports in sections of the media, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party have made impressive forays and dents in erstwhile BJP strongholds. Judging by the past performance of the visual media coverage of the 2014 elections, the media pollsters and panelists barring one, proved woefully wrong. Will the same story repeat itself?   


It goes without saying that the people of Gujarat will be the ultimate arbitrators of the election outcome. How they will exercise their franchise cannot be predicted. So it remains to be seen if the BJP’s asmita (self-respect) and vikas (development) card will outweigh all other considerations like the Congress Party’s caste and communal based populism. Which factor will have far reaching influence on the sentiments of the people, and will it sway people across all Gujarat considering the caste and communal polarization by young leaders?


Can Rahul Gandhi-Hardik Patel (Patidar)-Jignesh Mewani (Dalit)-Alpesh Thakor (OBC)-JDU (Sharad Yadav)-Bharatiya Tribal Party/NCP-Muslims-farmers-diamond merchants et al truly upset the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah BJP juggernaut?


The latest to sound the bugle against the Modi-led BJP is the Archdiocese of Gandhinagar, Archbishop Thomas Macwan, who has written a letter to bishops across the country warning of the danger of “nationalist forces taking over the nation and Gujarat elections could make a difference”.


This raises a key issue: Is there a Christian hand, particularly Italian hand, behind the war-cry to defeat the BJP? It cannot be dismissed lightly. Russia’s alleged involvement in the last US Presidential election is still under investigation, though not a trace of evidence has been found, as admitted by senior administration officials. But many adversary nations would like India to be plunged into chaos and political instability to thwart its progress to become a regional power. It is no secret that the highly partisan media, social media networks and anti-Modi non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are on hyperactive mode to derail the BJP-led government and regain the exclusive perks and privileges they enjoyed in the past.


One thing is certain. The Gujarat election result will set the course for future electoral outcomes to follow in the states in 2018, particularly in Karnataka where the Congress Party is in power, and also in the elections to be held to Parliament and State Assemblies in 2019.


Three scenarios are possible: the Modi-led BJP retains its majority; a Rahul Gandhi-led coalition gains a majority; and a hung Parliament.


Should Modi lead the BJP to another majority (even if reduced from current numbers), it could consolidate Modi’s position at the national level and within the BJP. Critics like Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha will be totally irrelevant and marginalized. It would deal a sharp blow to Rahul Gandhi’s attempt to forge alliances on caste and communal lines.  It will also send a powerful message against dynastic leadership and populist promises. The media build-up of aging dynasties will suffer a sharp rebuke.


In Himachal Pradesh, whose results will be announced jointly with those of Gujarat, Rahul Gandhi’s leadership will suffer a major blow in the event of defeat, particularly after the so-called ‘rejig’ within the party.


However, in Gujarat, if Rahul Gandhi’s new social coalition manages to cross the 92 mark (182 total), it will certainly herald the revival and resurgence of the Congress Party at the national level. All opposition parties with pretensions to the Prime Minister’s post will have to step aside and follow Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party.


Should such a scenario develop, the BJP will see the emergence of dissenting voices against the Modi-Amit Shah dominance. There is a slim chance that the “old guard” may rebel. Of course, one cannot rule out the possibility of Modi striking back with vengeance by invoking the Hindutva card and the Ram Temple issue to polarise the Hindu majority all over again. Modi can be expected to strive hard and strike boldly on many key issues, such as bringing the corrupt to book by filing criminal cases and also resort to populist measures in the name of vikas.


Finally, in the case of a hung assembly or if BJP loses power, the state of Gujarat will suffer the most. A word of caution: a week is too long a period, particularly in India’s highly complex and dynamic politics. A single event can change the pollsters’ predictions topsy-turvy.


Thus, chaos and political instability will follow in the event of two scenarios, until a new ruling dispensation emerges in the aftermath of the 2019 elections. There are thus very high stakes in the outcome of the Gujarat elections. Not only are the future courses of the nation and state involved, but also the future of many top leaders as well. All eyes on Gujarat.

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