Monday, January 30th, 2023 20:55:36

Learnings from elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh

By Rakesh Kumar
Updated: December 17, 2022 4:21 pm

earning is the process of evolving as well as evaluating our theories. Most of the time personal experiences alter it but institutions need a systematic approach. The understanding of  why something happens and why a decision  leads to a  certain outcome only leads to better strategies  in future.This understanding does not come easily as one has to make a  conscious choice to challenge his assumptions and the  models chosen. The Gujarat and Himachal state assembly provides a case study for such learning,Let’s explore the  data available  from these elections.

The BJP has got more than 52 per cent votes in this election while the Congress party received around 27 per cent votes. The AamAadmi Party got around 13 per cent votes and leaving others with only 7.5 per cent of the votes.The BJP’s vote percentage has increased by 3.4 per cent in comparison to 2017, on the other hand the Congress’s vote percentage has decreased by 14.4 per cent. I have written in my previous article that allegedly  some groups have taken a call that they will not marry their daughters with the families opting for free electricity. These results have proved that unlike Delhi and Punjab freebies have not been able to  lure the voters of Gujarat.

Himachal Pradesh
Congress bagged 40 seats with a vote share of 43.9 per cent  with total 18,52,504 votes, the BJP on the other hand with a vote share of 43 per cent (18,14,530 votes), managed to get 25 seats only. The  difference of vote share between the two was just 0.9 percentage points. For an ordinary party worker  it is very difficult  to understand what went wrong? In the 2017 election congress could get 21 seats despite getting 7.11 per cent less votes.

eight seats were decided by a margin below 1,000 votes and seven seats were decided by a margin of 1,000-2,000 votes. Only 13 seats were decided by a margin of over 10,000 votes.This indicates that the favorable  wave was missing. It gives a feeling that it is not the case of Congress winning, but it is a case study for how BJP lost this election.

This data gives us the first insight, the power of rebels:in a small state where the difference in the votes received by the winner or the loser is so small, loss of a few votes can make such a big difference. Even in a landslide victory of Gujrat 2 seats  have been lost to rebels.The only  difference is, that in a big state like Gujarat rebels were few but here in Himachal the number was too high. Are these rebels to be blamed or the local leadership is to be blamed for not listening to the ground realities.

It reminds me of an article published in Harvard business review “ why people fail to learn from success”. Here both rebels and the election managers assumed that they had won the last election and as a result they knew the truth correctly.This illusion of knowing the truth leads to overconfidence bias. Faith in oneself is a good thing, but too much of it that too without any validation  can make one believe that he doesn’t need to change anything. This leads to a casual approach to challenges being faced. On the other hand a person who has failed believes that something is wrong and he tries  to discover and  rectify it. Therefore it becomes a vicious circle. Success brings failure and introspection after failure brings success.Poor voters are left with no choice and they keep on changing the ruling party.

In Gujarat the best thing happened is that despite winning for such  a long period the ruling party took the 2017 result as a  cause for worry.New power equations,Patidar reservation movement, social unrest and volatility kept the state on tenterhooks. These challenges helped the government  to be on toes.The performance of the CM was under close observation and mid course corrections were made. This alertness not only managed the incumbency factor, rebellion was kept  under control to a great extent. Over and above, the falling ofa  bridge at Morbi. The attempt to exploit the loss of precious human  lives, luring the voters with freebies  etc could not influence the voters in a big way.

My personal learning here is,  never be lax when the time is good. Always look for grey areas to be improved. Even though Delhi MCD elections are not  being reviewed here, similar learning is also there. The winning margin was thin. Low turnout  of the middle and  upper segment voters who are supposed to be the voters of BJP might be the reason for this debacle. Had the booth managers focused on motivating their  core voters to the polling booth  the results would have been better. I was in the city and found enthusiasm missing. It seems that the ruling party itself believed in the incumbency factor which was proved wrong by the actual result.

This is called fundamental attribution error
What has happened has happened but one should not fall prey to failure-to-ask-why syndrome—the tendency of attributing everything to luck or the tradition of changing the winning party in every election is not going to help. If at all anybody believes in it then they have to answer the question,” why did it not happen in Gujarat”?  and  what is that which is being done in Gujrat and not in Himachal”?.

When one tries to answer this question a unique fact comes out: the Himachal congress fought this election without the support of national leaders. As a result the focus was on local issues and they were able to take advantage of perceived  fear against agniveer, inflation and failure to project achievements by the ruling party .

The promise to revive the old pension scheme helped in wooing  government employees and their families. On the other hand there are rumorsabout  the two top leaders not being in harmony and it has  played a role.

This  election was a close fight, however the better use of limited resources made the day for opposition.

Issues to be resolved now
Durdhara vs Helena ( two queens of Chandra GuptMaurya) As BJP  has become a leading political party  of India and the second one is lagging  far behind. It has become a practice that dissatisfied leaders of other parties keep joining it. Like acquisition  and merger in management this is a welcome move to grab new territories with ease. It has helped it to spread geometrically in all parts of India excluding a few states in the south.

However these  newcomers join the party after getting  promises for  suitable rewards and it hurts the political interests of the existing loyal workers. If not managed efficiently it leads to unrest, suspicion and loss of enthusiasm.

In a similar situation Chankya could resolve the above issue of who will be maharani; Indian origin Durdhara  vs Helena from outside India, more over this alliance with Greeks provided Chandragupta  peace on western border along with few areas as gift.

Managing aspirations
Time has now changed but the aspirations are the same. A political party can still manage aspirations of loyal workers,if it ensures that the  minister and legislature are made answerable to party hierarchy. This empowerment to get the local  issues resolved can provide confidence to a party worker to face the public despite being bypassed to accommodate the outsider or the more competent one.

Training the workers about limited opportunities for being a legislator or a minister will go a long way. It should help people to find out what they really want so that they can avoid chasing rainbows that are not for them.

Serving to realize an ideological dream can be a bigger goal.  Leaving lucrative jobs and joining AAP by wizards in their field, was proof that people can forgo individual success for larger good. It is upto the leadership to prove its credentials else deserting the party is much faster!  as happened for the AAP.

Age limit imposed for fighting elections is a good call but rehabilitation of these learned and experienced leaders is of prime importance.

Discontent and rebellion is a recent challenge and  BJP does not have any such example of managing discontent.  RSS has managed such a situation effectively in the past.

“Golwalkar’s choice as sarsanghchalak in 1948   was said to have surprised the RSS swayamsevaks( volunteers )”.

Dr Hedgewar had passed over several senior activists. BalasahebDeoras was the one such person who worked sincerely despite being overlooked.

This culture has to be inculcated as early as possible,else India has a  notorious reputation for ‘gharkabhedi Lanka dhaye’ meaning that an insider rebel only, had destroyed the kingdom of Lanka.

The focus of this article is on learning from success. The author believes that the debacle in Himachal will be analyzed in depth but more fruitful will be  learning from success in Gujrat and implementing it elsewhere. Similar studies can be made on the success of Himachal by the congress and can the BJP develop  some model where state elections can be managed by local leadership. It will  benefit the party in many ways

  • Developing leadership pipeline.
  • Providing space for aspiration of young upcoming leaders.
  • This will need a lot of hand holding and the 75 plus Margdarshakmandal can really play the role of mentor. NanajiDeshmukh was one such leader   who contributed more after completing his political career.
  • Allowing senior leaders to focus on national and international  issues  of importance.

State election wins provide members of parliament in the upper house hence is of prime importance. The issue of low voting that too by the core voters needs introspection. Leaving it unattended provides opportunities for analytics manipulation.   A situation may arise where a winning party loses just because algorithms were used to persuade undecided voters to cast their vote to most unworthy candidates. A democracy should not be allowed to be manipulated by algorithm manipulators.

By Rakesh Kumar

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