Gujarat Assembly 2017 elections: Why both BJP and Congress in the state look like losers
Post the poll results, the mood has been sombre for both parties.
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If one was to be in Gujarat on counting day, one would be confused which party is winning and which one is losing, if the mood in party offices was to be a barometer.
Counting day of Gujarat Assembly elections dawned like any other for Congress leaders and office bearers. While the eve of counting day was already a celebration for the Gujarat BJP as its state headquarters Kamalam in Koba, Gandhinagar was lit up on Sunday evening; a red carpet was laid out at the entrance and a podium made for leaders to address the media! However, by mid-morning, celebrations erupted at the Congress headquarters in Paldi, Ahmedabad – first when for a few minutes the grand old party's lead went ahead of BJP’s; and then, as more detailed numbers trickled in, it emerged that the party — though was not forming the government — is as good as doubling its existing tally.
Vijay Rupani chose not to address the media. Photo: PTI
At the BJP office on the other hand, even though it was clear that the saffron party was indeed making the government in the 14th Gujarat Assembly, no firecrackers were burst. Because the party started out with an extremely ambitious number of 150 seats, and this result was actually taking their tally lower than the previous election. For a jubilant BJP that was confident that it cannot be routed in its home state, this was a major disappointment.
When Congress' lead took over BJP’s, senior office bearers and spokespersons retreated to their respective rooms and did not surface till much later when clear figures emerged.
The mood among party workers was upbeat as the tally of their seats increased and the only slogan that rent the air was 'Rahul Gandhi aage badho...' and 'Desh ki aandhi, Rahul Gandhi'.
Incumbent chief minister Vijay Rupani was first expected to reach the party office by 9.30am, but did not show up till very late. The specially created podium to address the media was gently removed. On the other hand, despite a revival of sorts, albeit short of forming the government, Congress state president Bharatsinh Solanki did not show up at the party office all through the morning.
What after Modi wave is shattered? Photo: PTI
In fact, none of the senior leaders of the Congress came to the party headquarters, underlining the severe leadership crisis the party faces. By noon, it emerged that all its top leaders – Shaktisinh Gohil, Arjun Modhwadia and Siddharth Patel contesting from Mandvi (Kutch), Porbandar and Dabhoi (central Gujarat) – had lost. Notably, this did not trigger depression at the party office, where some murmured "good riddance to bad rubbish". The mood among party workers was upbeat as the tally of their seats increased and the only slogan that rent the air was "Rahul Gandhi aage badho..." and "Desh ki aandhi, Rahul Gandhi".
Gohil was considered as the top choice for chief ministership if the party came to power. A round of cheer went up in the office at Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani’s victory.
Saffron spell breaks
BJP had won 127 seats in December 2002, during the elections held in the shadow of the post-Godhra communal riots. After that, in the 2007 and 2012 Assembly elections, considered the peak of Modi’s popularity, BJP’s seats decreased to 117 and 115 respectively. If the ongoing trends of 2017 are anything to go by, this number will likely reduce further.
By the afternoon, Congress workers had resigned to their fate, but optimistic about the fact that doubling the number of seats looked like a dim light at the end of a 22-year-long dark tunnel of being the meek opposition. BJP leaders and workers who were present at the party office conceded there was a need to introspect as this was a clear message by the voter. Narendra Modi’s popularity had pulled them through this time, and would perhaps work in 2019 Lok Sabha polls too, but it was about time to look within and examine whether they would be able to repeat this feat in the 2022 Assembly elections as well.
After Modi and Amit Shah, BJP also faces a leadership crisis at the local level. This too was a topic of discussion at the party office as the final tally came in.