Rise of Rahul Gandhi
Victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat, majorly by Narendra Modi, son of the soil, pride of Gujaratis, coupled with his rhetoric and persona, and partly by sheer luck. In 16 constituencies, the BJP and the Congress candidates were lockedin a nail-biting contest, where the win margin was less than 2000 votes and of just 200 in a few seat. In one seat Congress won by 17 votes. In one Constituency Congress won by 768. One seat was won by the BJP by 268 votes.
Any shift in seats like these could have tilted the scale. Anyway a win is a win, and the reality is that the BJP’s winning streak could not be halted and a newly-incarnated shaivite, sacred thread wearing Rahul could not brake his losing streak.
There are two takeaways from the Gujarat elections which will have considerable bearing on the 2019 election. Modi and Amit Shah cannot now depend only on ‘vikas’ and promises backed by strong election machinery, they will have to find ways to counter caste-combinations, like they faced in their home state. They must also plug dis-satisfaction in large groups. HardikPatel could routBJP from Saurashtra because he could fan the farmers’ anger over the neglect by the government. In fact farmers are unhappy all over. Modi is the ace card to make them relent apart from measures ArunJaitley has proposed to raise farm income.
One could see in Gujarat how he arouses emotions and establishes direct rapport with his audiences. Before he arrived at a venue, the crowd was restless and lacklustre. But Modi stood up to speak, the first thing he asked, ‘khemchau’, cheering exploded and the crowd shouted, ‘majaamaa’ and then they asked him how he was. ‘Exactly as I was’. Direct link was established and the audience won over.
Rahul earned his laurels the hard way, but he could developinto a strong, shrewd campaigner, yet he still lacks the oratory and the ability of Modi to transform himself into a good, friendly neighbour. Brought up in the western culture and having an affluent background, try as much he can, he can never become a good neighbour next door. This is why he could make BJP nervous and cut into its support base, but could not stop it from sprinting to the victory post.But the gap was dangerously close for Modi’s comfort.
Rahul’s biggest triumph in this election was persuading the irreconcilable three caste leaders sink their differences and join hand to defeat the BJP. They could not succeed due to the towering personality of Modi. But he had to really make the contest between himself and them. Secondly Amit Shah’s election machinery was as usual unbeatable. Rahul has no organisation worth the name. The fact that almost all state leaders lost meant that but for Rahul and his newly-acquired young caste leaders Congress could have come a cropper. His was a solo effort and that has to be commended. The different incarnations he projected was his trump card. In Gujarat Rahul visited 27 temples and had no hesitation in letting be known he was a Brahman and wore the sacred thread. He tried his best to erase the belief that his Party was pro-Muslims. This needed courage since his great-grandfather’s time the impression was assiduously created that the Congress stood by the minority. Now Rahul has decided to be all for the Hindus, of all castes.
Modi has to also find a way to contend with a Rahul, who has entered in his turf and is fighting with similar weapons with which he has been snatching ‘one state after another from the Congresss.
The emergence of a new Rahul, aggressive but calculatedly, solid in his arguments has by the end of the Gujarat election erased jokes from the minds of the people hundreds of Pappujokes. He has hopped, jumped and won the admiration ofhis own party and in the urban voters.And become a leader in his own right but whether he has the patience and stamina to carry on the newly acquired persona, it is too early to stay.
By Vijay Dutt