Decoding Gujarat local poll results: It’s not so black and white

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Nowadays, every election in India is somehow linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Since the man's third consecutive victory in the Gujarat Assembly polls in 2012, every election in the country-whether national, state or local-have been Modi centric.

And just like the series of electoral battles in which the BJP did well, starting from Gujarat in 2012 till Jammu and Kashmir in 2014, did Modi's leadership image a world of good, the spate of losses in 2015 (Delhi, Bihar, Ratlam bypoll and now Gujarat rural polls) have been reduced to the ‘disappearance of the Modi wave'.

Decoding Gujarat local poll results

Every election result can't be linked to Narendra Modi: There are other equations too

Can each and every election result be linked to one man? The situation gives an impression that even if Modi is still not an Indira Gandhi, his opponents: the Opposition, media or Left-leaning civil society, have happily donned the mantle of ‘anti-Emergency activists' and are not ready to disown it.

Coming back to the latest polls in which the BJP has received a setback, just straightaway concluding that the Modi wave has vanished is of no use.

Modi is above the law of average, like any other human being, and he cannot be expected to win each and every big and small election tests throughout his stay in the political scene.

It's a new Gujarat of post-Modi Era and it's more competitive

In Gujarat, where the BJP still managed to win all six municipal corporations, the local elections hint at a changed reality in the state politics in the post-Modi Era.

The exit of Modi, who ruled the state at a stretch for 13 years, has certainly created a vacuum which his successor Anandiben Patel is yet to fill up.

And add to that a resurgent Congress, which held Jan Sampark programmes in the state to make use of Modi's absence, and the Patidaar movement of Hardik Patel-we have a fresh equation in the western state.

Modi or no Modi, BJP was always a party with urban stronghold

Keeping the Modi factor out, there is no denying that the BJP is essentially a party with an urban stronghold. In the recent Bihar elections, too, the party did well in the urban parts. But the biased media is selectively highlighting the BJP's poor performance only without analysing the entire picture.

In Gujarat for example, the results have been mixed. While the Congress has done well in the home turfs of big BJP leaders, including Modi; the BJP has also done well in the home town of Hardik Patel, the latest threat to its rule in Gujarat.

Hence, just painting the results in black and white, saying it is Modi's loss, is not accurate. What's happened in Gujarat is actually the restoration of political normalcy after the phenomenal Modi Era.

These results an alarm for not just BJP but also Congress

With the next Assembly elections two years away, the results certainly raise an alarm, but for all the forces in the fray. While Anandiben and other top state leaders now need to reinvent themselves to bring the aggrieved Patels towards themselves again, the Congress is yet to find a face that the strongly opinionated urban electorate can feel convinced about.

Otherwise, there will be enough scope for social movements (like that of the PAAS) to derail their respective ambitions. Gujarat's scenario now resembles that of West Bengal of the post-Jyoti Basu days in a way.

Though the Opposition Congress has no Mamata in its ranks to rattle the rulers of the day and might see Hardik run away with the prize after doing all the hard work.

Congress yet to know what is Hardik phenomenon

The Congress is yet to be sure whether the Hardik Patel phenomenon is a gift for them or just an extension of the problems of BJP's own Patel politics.

If the young Hardik attains the maturity of engineering a social coalition in the future electoral battles in Gujarat and the state witnesses the revival of something on the lines of the KHAM politics, the Congress will be in a serious danger of getting marginalised further, just like it has been undone in Delhi by the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party. So, the task has certainly not finished for the former ruling party.

BJP has lost its ‘right to lose' an election

On the other hand, the BJP's problem is that it has lost its right to lose after the unbelievable success of Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

After registering huge success in states like Gujarat, MP, Rajasthan, Delhi, Bihar and UP, even a panchayat loss is being seen as the fall of Prime Minister Modi which is certainly not true.

BJP needs Congress to shine

Modi has now been elevated to the position of a national leader while the party still has to work hard at the lower levels in the cut-throat competition called politics. The BJP also faces a challenge if the Congress is pushed further into oblivion.

The saffron party needs the Congress to assert its position, as was seen in the 2014 Lok Sabha election or in states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, MP, Delhi, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir or Chhattisgarh where the battle is/was mainly bipolar.

The BJP is still to master the skills when it comes to facing a regional force in an election battle, as has been seen in Delhi and Bihar. If Hardik Patel rises further in the next two years as a serious player in Gujarat politics, Anandiben Patel and not Modi will have a task in her hand.

Gujarat is slowly coming to terms with new realities. The beginning has been exciting.

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