Gujarat and Himachal elections: Why Modi didn't seem too elated in his victory speech
Congress making huge inroads in its 'political citadel' is perhaps worrying BJP.
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With the BJP down to double digits in its Gujarat tally but beating the 22-year-old anti-incumbency, it was a day of mixed feelings for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose home run in his state continues for the sixth consecutive term. However, with an ascendant Congress led by Rahul Gandhi being termed the "tactical victor" by some in the media, PM Modi needed to send out political assurances about BJP's technical victory in Gujarat, while accepting the winning Himachal Pradesh verdict as a vote for change.
Terming the election results in Gujarat as “historical”, PM Modi on Monday, December 18, addressed the party workers and supporters from the BJP headquarters in Delhi. Yet his unusual post-results aggression was a dead giveaway that chinks in his once invincible armour are now clearly visible.
Here are the major takeaways from his speech:
'Unprecedented in BJP’s history'
PM Modi said winning six elections consecutively in a state is unprecedented in the BJP’s history. These back-to-back victories based on development and good governance show a new direction in India’s politics, PM Modi said, thereby completely erasing the high-voltage communal rhetoric that he himself indulged in just days back. Though the sixth consecutive victory is indeed unprecedented in the saffron party's 37-year-old history, and is comparable to the 34-year-old unbroken rule of the CPI(M)-led Left Front in West Bengal, the significant losses, such as losing in his home constituency Unjha, bear enormous symbolic strain on Brand Modi.
BJP won all the seats it contested in 1989 Lok Sabha polls. We won most of the seats we contested in 1990. In 1995, in 1998, in 2002, in 2007 and in 2012 we won. We won most seats in Lok Sabha polls too: PM @narendramodi— narendramodi_in (@narendramodi_in) December 18, 2017
Gujarat poll results are historical. In this day and age, for a party to keep winning for so long: PM @narendramodi— narendramodi_in (@narendramodi_in) December 18, 2017
'A verdict against casteist politics'
For PM Modi, the results were indications that people in Gujarat "rejected divisive and casteist politics" and chose development and progress instead. This is interesting because the last-mile booth connectivity that BJP strategist Amit Shah ensures is a cold and hard look at caste calculations, as elaborated in a number of books looking at BJP's "election-winning machine".
In addition, under the Modi-Shah duopoly, the consolidation of castes under the Hindu rubric has been the aim, but the politics of cow protection and the shameful incident in Una last year ensured that the pent up anger of the Dalits bubbled over this time around. Not only the SC/STs, even the OBCs and Patidars have been long upset with BJP, which resulted in landslide victories for Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor.
We took three decades to remove the poison of casteism from Gujarat. We took Gujarat on the path of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' : PM @narendramodi— narendramodi_in (@narendramodi_in) December 18, 2017
“Sadly, a few people who were hungry for power, tried to sow the seeds of casteism. Gujarat has been rejecting those people and have rejected them again. We also have to be more careful now on. Our mantra remains Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas,” Modi said. Ironically, "vikas" was a plank that was deserted mid-way by Modi when he went ahead and attacked the Congress, including former PM Manmohan Singh.
'Gujarat results a matter of double joy'
Congratulating the party leaders in Gujarat for carrying on with the development works after he left the state, he explained why Gujarat results are a matter of double joy for him. “Personally, for me it is a reason because after a leader steps away there are all kinds of talk and people are demoralised, but the way BJP workers took control of the state is a reason for happiness. The second is that my colleagues spared no effort in the progress of Gujarat,” he said.
This too should be taken with a pinch of salt since just with four months of vigorous campaigning, Congress could make significant inroads into what was known as the "political citadel" of the BJP, Gujarat. There was real unrest on the streets of Gujarat and the Congress, backed by the trio of Hardik, Alpesh and Jignesh, capitalised on the deep distress, the rural-urban divide, the condition of health and sanitation worker, the rotting educational sector, as well as the nearly erased minorities in the western state in which the "project majoritarianism" was deemed complete only weeks back.
'Don’t derail development'
Slamming the opposition for hatching conspiracies, PM Modi said that people do not tolerate if anyone makes fun of “vikas”. “Even if you do not like BJP, do not try to derail the progress being made towards development,” he said adding that during UP elections, too, it was said that the BJP would lose due to GST. However, Gujarat model stands punctured, and PM Modi needs to redefine his development as "inclusive" if he wants to fare better in 2018 and 2019, since relying solely on Hindutva won't pay expected dividends.
After 2014, there is hunger for development. Even if you do not like BJP, do not try to derail the progress being made towards development: PM Narendra Modi pic.twitter.com/DCglJpP2TR— ANI (@ANI) December 18, 2017
'Focus on development of middle classes'
The focus now should be on the development of the middle class, PM Modi said. “Aspirations of India’s middle class are really high today. There was a time when people were content with what they had. Today’s India walks with new dreams in their eyes, has new hope. And if you don’t perform, if you indulge in misdeeds, people won’t accept you in five years,” he said.
Given that PM Modi even invited Japanese PM Shinzo Abe to showcase the bullet train deal in order to retain the middle class vote bank, it seems this isn't a section that's in a hurry to desert their beloved son of the soil. BJP has indeed fared very well in the urban swathes, and this is the urban Hindu demography that's proved to his most loyal base.