Five years back in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, the BJP and the Congress were face-to-face and people were asking the question “what do Gujarat and Himachal mean for the two national parties?” In 2017, Aam Aadmi Party was limited to Delhi and nobody thought much of AAP other than to mention it in the passing, like in an obituary. This time around, AAP and Kejriwal are in the conversation, definitely more in Gujarat than in Himachal Pradesh. There is also the creeping feeling that AAP fancies its chances in Gujarat, ever more after the BJP trained its guns more on the AAP than on the Congress after the hanging bridge of Morbi capsized mid-air, killing 135. Morbi happened out of the blue leaving the BJP hanging like an asterix. Whoever thought clock-maker Ajanta would get the time wrong for the BJP? The headwinds are now full-face on the BJP and the question hangs: What if the BJP gets clobbered by AAP because of Morbi, and where will that place the Congress?
The thing is after Morbi, the BJP is on a slippery slope. It’s suddenly upriver for the saffron party. The 135 deaths can put the BJP in 135 different kinds of trouble on top of the 27 times anti-incumbency. Rahul Gandhi was scathing in his assessment of BJP’s chances in Gujarat and Gandhi, who knows, must also be a crystal-gazer in his new avatar. And, depending on the results that will be declared in December, Arvind Kejriwal and bright AAP boy Raghav Chadha will decide on whether to undertake their brand of ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, such has been the popularity of BJY! Even actor Pooja Bhatt joined Rahul Gandhi on the road and from the shape she’s in, she didn’t look like a habitual morning walker! For the Congress, victory in Gujarat will be rejuvenation and reappraisal. In case Rahul Gandhi has read the tea leaves right, and the Congress bests both the BJP and AAP in the aftermath of Morbi, the ramifications will stretch to 2023 and beyond, to 2024! What if before that, the BJY caravan takes a detour to Gujarat, giving Rajasthan short shrift or a complete miss? Does Rahul Gandhi have the mojo in him to throw a surprise to stun the BJP, and startle the AAP?
Gujarat, as also Himachal, was important for the Congress in 2017, and it is important for the Congress in 2022, too. Either the BJP continues with its domination or the Congress throws a spanner in the BJP’s works. The Congress nearly toppled the BJP in Gujarat in 2017. This time the grand old party has left it to its state unit leadership to wage battle. It’s a new and different strategy, will it work? If Congress forms the government after 27 years in the political wilderness, it will be the beginning of the end of Narendra Modi. ‘The Wire’ and Siddarth Vardarajan can sit back and enjoy the sun. If the Bharatiya Janata Party is defeated in Gujarat, the tables will be turned and millions will dance in the streets of India. There’s a sneaking chance that Gujarat will give Prime Minister Narendra Modi the slip this time around.