Amid his celebrated Bharat Jodo Yatra, Rahul Gandhi stayed away from campaigning in Himachal Pradesh and he ensured his presence be minimal in Gujarat. As the results are out, the emerging scene is interesting. The BJP, as expected, has swept the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This time the party, under his leadership made a humongous victory by breaking all its past records but the number that the Congress party managed to gain in its casket seems to be a shrieking reality about its future prospects. Another interesting aspect of the result is that Rahul Gandhi did not put his legs in Himachal Pradesh but his party won with a comfortable margin and is all set to form the government. The state has, as usual, changed its mind by changing the government. The BJP has to wait another five years for its next turn. Though Rahul Gandhi’s presence in the Modi turf was minimal, his critics would go at him hammer and tongs narrating his inefficiency to translate the party machinery into election victories. For Himachal Pradesh, he would not be eulogised for the victory but his detractors would probably giggle it out by saying his absence could propel the party’s triumph. To be precise, the estrangement that the family high command would face in the party is certain.
Rahul’s absence from the electioneering is narrated as a strategy that the Congress thought to deliberately come up with. If that is to be believed, it should be seen as an effort to shield its leader from the potential damage that the party’s failures would cause. Rahul Gandhi, capturing media headlines through his yatra, is ought to gain a distinct reputation as a catalyst who would surface as a consensual candidate against Narendra Modi in the battle 2024. The BJP’s victory in the state of Gujarat is unprecedented also its decrement defeat in Himachal Pradesh. While the Modi factor played a pivotal role in its Gujarat victory, the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) into the fray had contributed to increase its tally. The AAP dented the roots of the Congress by splitting its vote share and its false narratives seem to have turned out to be a boon for the BJP.
The failure of Congress in the state of Gujarat is not only the failure of its defective electioneering but also its failure in understanding Modi’s persona in his home turf. Defamatory vocabularies shot against him by the Congress had always helped him change the scenario. From the 99 seats it won in 2017 the BJP’s gigantic leap to 156 this time is an indication of the indomitable power that Narendra Modi would fight the national elections with. The party not only managed to increase its seats but there has also been a 4 percent increase in its vote share. Narendra Modi, with his three enormous road shows and 30 campaign meetings shattered the hopes of all his opponents. But the factor that should worry both BJP and Congress is the inroads that the AAP could make in Gujarat’s spectrum of politics. Gujarat was a different space for the AAP to replicate a Punjab victory. In long run, the AAP’s steady stride in the state would threaten the BJP too. The Congress on the other hand had a huge fall from its 40 percent vote share of 2017 to a trifling 27 percent this time.
The state government in Gujarat was severely criticised for the Morbi tragedy and the results were expected to be reflective of the horror that the heartbreaking incident brought to the state; especially an incident of such magnitude occurred when the state was gearing up for the assembly elections. Predictions spoke of a probable backlash, exposing a deceptive Gujarat Model of development. But the voters proved such assumptions wrong. Though totally vanquished in Gujarat, the Congress victory in Himachal Pradesh would give it a breath of hope. Priyanka Gandhi, the party General Secretary is sure to be lauded for the victory. She led the party’s campaign in the hill state and the victory, no doubt, would be seen as an outcome of her strategising the campaign. Besides being a door to door campaigner, she had been a crowd puller holding the “Vijay Ashirwad Rallies” and many other small rallies. Will this victory put her in a better position in her party? Himachal Pradesh is her first electoral success and her defeat in Uttar Pradesh heading the campaign charge was her biggest nightmare. Totally decimated from the Gujarat scenario, the Congress should now focus on the facts that it failed to take notice of and try to mend the party’s dishevelled electoral reputation.
Gaining more confidence from the Gujarat victory, Modi and his party would prepare for the mega battle 2024. The preparedness in the opposition camp seems to be too delicate to counter the dominance of Modi. Rahul Gandhi’s fresh narratives and his political manoeuvres were justified as an ideological barricading against the BJP’s saffron agenda. Identifying the RSS as his principal enemy, he gestured his intentions further. The bigger battle that he is promulgating loudly against the RSS is evidently highlighting his limited scope and an act of political escapism from the challenges that Narendra Modi is placing in the present context. With Himachal Pradesh proving its trend of not repeating the same party, the Congress high command should hugely be thankful to the local leadership which kept the pot boiling on the ground. And the Priyanka factor being pronounced as an ethical element playing a significant role in the Congress victory, the party cadres would have their eyebrows twitched again in contempt of Rahul Gandhi’s efficiency. (The author is a freelance journalist & has penned down the book India @75-A Contemporary Approach. He can be reached at email@example.com)