Despite pep talks, BJP supporters crestfallen
Both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah on Monday evening patted each other’s back and thanked the party workers for a splendid victory in Gujarat. But workers looked unconvinced
BJP has won the Gujarat elections – but the margin of victory is so thin that it is almost embarrassing. Like a student who posed like a potential topper ending up barely scraping through the exam, it is a bit of a let- down.
The party rank and file is, frankly, puzzled. What happened, they seem to be asking. Only 99 seats? What about the 150 the mighty strategist Shah had promised? Or at least 120, 115 or even 110?
The big leaders – with chests definitely not swelling with pride -- are frantically attempting to boost karyakarta morale with a series of pep-talks, listing whatever positives they can think of at short notice.
Amit Shah addresses a press conference and reels off unconvincing vote share numbers from 2012 and 2017, brusquely ignoring the 2014 figures. We won, didn’t we? -- this seems his central message. We will have chief ministers in 19 States and we will add to the tally in 2018 and win big in 2019 and usher in a New India by 2022, all under Modiji’s dynamic leadership, he concludes.
He then delivers a this-is-what-you-must-say lecture to party faithful at BJP headquarters. They listen, clap politely, set off a fire-cracker or two, dance a jig to fend off the winter chill and then go back to feeling puzzled and perplexed. What happened? Will we not even cross the three-figure mark?
Then Narendra Modi himself comes to the mike. There is an air of heightened expectation at 11, Ashoka Road. But it becomes clear soon enough that Modi is finding it difficult to sound triumphant.
Perhaps the defeat of party candidate in his home district of Mehsana is still rankling – BJP’s Lalludas Patel from Unjha constituency lost meekly to Congress candidate Dwarkadas Patel, who polled 74,438 votes.
Perhaps Modi too is bewildered about why the wonderful EVM machines let him down so terribly in Saurashtra and in rural areas across the state. What is this agrarian distress that everybody is harping on, even those ungrateful TV anchors he has done so much for? Farmers should not believe all the rumours being spread by the intellectuals sitting in elite mansions in Delhi. They are only interested in caste politics. They hate me because I am trying to derail development and make fun of my Vikas. All of you must ignore the conspiracies they are hatching with the help of Pakistan. You must have faith in me, Modi will lead you to a big victory in 2019. Did we not win a double victory today? We won in Himachal. We won in Gujarat.
Yes, Modiji, you won in Gujarat, but you won by the narrowest of margins. It is your home State. It is the crucible of your Gujarat model of development. More than half the voters voted against you. BJP received only 49 per cent of votes polled.
Also, horror of horrors, lots of traditional BJP supporters exercised the NOTA option. Election Commission say nearly two per cent of the voters pressed the EVM button for "None Of The Above". They were not Congress supporters, they were your voters but this time they were so angry with you that they wanted to register their anger by voting NOTA.
Also, talking about the Congress, how has it improved so much? You said Rahul Gandhi is politically inconsequential. But he campaigned like a tiger. He did not look like a political nincompoop. He did not sound like an ignoramus. He attracted huge crowds everywhere.
Is that not why BJP lost so much ground in the Saurashtra region? Even in north and central Gujarat BJP has lost some seats that it had won in 2012. Is it the Rahul factor? Does it mean Gujarat will not be Congress-mukt? With more than 80 new Congress MLAs out of 182, has Gujarat not become Congress-yukt?
And what about the Hardik, Jignesh, Alpesh factors? The Congress has drawn eight per cent more Patel votes this time compared to last time. It has also gained 17 seats in rural Gujarat. How can this happen in your home State, in your stronghold territory?
How is it that Rahul Gandhi launched such an aggressive campaign – how can a politically inconsequential person be so effective in cashing in on the anger of key sections of the population and turning them against the BJP ? He went about urging farmers and traders to reject Gabbar Singh Tax and to register protest against Note Bandi. He blamed you, Modiji, for their poverty and financial losses. And he convinced half the voters.