Patna (Bihar), December 19, 2017 Call your political rival by any name–a dynast, a man who is hand-in-glove with Pakistan, a corrupt and inefficient person, anti-Hindu, Pappu, Aurangzeb etc–yet you cannot dream of the Congress-mukt Bharat (Congress-free India).
No doubt, the Congress party has lost in Gujarat yet it has come very close to defeat the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. If the 2014 Lok Sabha election results are any yardstick the Congress has made four-fold increase in the number of seats it won. Then it led in only 17 Assembly segments out of the total 182 while in the rest the BJP, which won all the 26 parliamentary seats.
Percentage-wise the gap has come down by over 20 per cent in three and a half years –from 26 per cent to just five or six per cent. In 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP got 59.1 per cent while the Congress 32.9 per cent. While the BJP vote share fell by about 10 per cent that of Congress it improved by about 11-12 per cent.
If this is the result of the state from where the two most powerful personality of the country–Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah come, then nothing can be said about the ruling party at the Centre in rest of the country.
The message is clear: in democracy you cannot afford to establish a single party government. If people have choice they would certainly vote for an alternative–howsoever weak it may be–if those in power start taking them for granted. The BJP can afford to win only if the opponents are divided. This had happened both in case of Bihar and UP. In UP it won a thumping majority because the rivals were divided, in Bihar in 2015 it had to bite dust as its opponents were united under the banner of Grand Alliance.
Interestingly, in Gujarat nobody is now talking about Aam Aadmi Party and Shankar Singh Waghela factor. They all disappeared in the thin air of politics.
The BJP leaders are taking some comfort by making comparison with the 2012 Assembly election. Still they have won 16 less seats while the Congress tally has increased by this many number of seats. Percentage-wise too the gap has come down considerably.
But with the Lok Sabha elections due only 16 months from now it would be better to compare the latest figures with the 2014 poll. Any such analysis makes the BJP people sit up and ponder. How will they improve the tally when they had already reached the saturation point in all the states in which it is in power now.
The Gujarat results have almost exposed the vulnerability of the BJP. Its bargaining position vis-à-vis to its partners in the NDA will come down considerably. Similarly, it will come as a setback to the saffron party’s efforts to bring in new regional allies, especially in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana. Not only that, it may brighten the Congress party’s prospects in Karnataka which goes to poll early next year. Elections to the BJP ruled Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan are due later in 2018.
(Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna.)