No doubt the BJP recorded sixth straight win in Gujarat, the home state of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and wrested Himachal Pradesh from the Congress, but what matters most is that its claim and expectation dashed to the ground. As the election victories went to the head and Gujarat being the showpiece for the BJP, it was confident and made proud announcement that the party would win 150 seats in the assembly elections. However, despite its hectic campaign and PM’s tireless addresses to a number of rallies, BJP could not cross the two digit figure of 99. The party could encash mostly the urban areas, the traditional base of the BJP. It lost its vote bank and its traditional supporters. This is clearly the adverse impact of demonetization and GST. Both the steps earned the anger of the people throughout the country and Gujarat is no exception. Still the Prime Minister said the Gujarat win shows that the people are ready for the reforms. He ignored the setback his party got.
The defeat in Himachal Pradesh is the repeat of history. The state has always alternated to give power to the BJP and the Congress. This was the turn of the BJP. The most crucial state was Gujarat. The propaganda, right or wrong, and the refrain on the model state of Gujarat ruled by Narendra Modi on the eve of the 2014 elections played a vital role in the absolute majority got by the party in the Lok Sabha elections. The people of the state are angry with the BJP rule. The BJP win does not deny this fact. There was a keen contest between the BJP and the Congress. The former lost 16 seats and the latter gained the same number of seats. A win is a win, but in this case it is a lacklustre win. If the party faced defeat, it would have disastrous effects, but in case of present win also, the party’s image is damaged and even Prime Minister’s face is also lost. All efforts made by the BJP to increase the number of seats went to the wall. On the contrary it suffered a loss of seats.
This was the most hectic and challenging campaign on the part of the BJP. The Prime Minister may not have spent as much time on any state election as he did now on Gujarat polls. He addressed countless rallies but instead of speaking of Gujarat development, he levelled baseless allegations against the Congress. He even alleged that the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was involved in a conspiracy against him to defeat the BJP in Gujarat. He said a meeting at the residence of Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, which was attended by besides Manmohan Singh, the former Army Chief Deepak Kapoor, former Vice President Hamid Ansari and others, was meant to hedge a conspiracy against the BJP. The meeting as a matter of fact was hosted by the Congress leader to treat his friend, a Pak leader. The Prime Minister made a mountain of a molehill and dragged it into the poll campaign. This was a desperate attempt on his part to tarnish the image of the Congress. If the government had any intelligence information in this regard, it should have sprung to action against the meeting and its participants. Instead, he had thrown a baseless charge against the former PM, former Vice President, former Army Chief and others. In another insinuation, he said an obscure retired Pak Army officer suggested the Congress to make Ahmed Patel the Chief Minister of Gujarat. This prompted the Pak officials to deny the charge. Rahul Gandhi was asked whether he wanted a temple or a mosque at the Babri mosque place in Ayodhya. Thus the BJP campaign touched the lowest ebb and violated the poll code norms.
On the contrary, Rahul Gandhi who proved his mettle as a seasoned leader in this election asked the Congress leaders and campaigners not to utter any word to belittle the office of the Prime Minister.
This defeat for the Congress is more significant than a victory.