With the polling in the second and final phase of Gujarat Assembly elections having concluded today, and results anxiously awaited for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, its time to question all the surveys and predictions made by the BJP and its sycophant media, particularly in the TV news channels.
Ever since BJP president Amit Shah made the preposterous prediction of winning 150 seats in the 182-strong Gujarat Assembly, the media seems to have taken the bait hook, line and sinker, without batting an eyelid. Some Modi bhakts had started predicting even more than 150 seats for the BJP.
It would be presumptuous to attempt at this stage, a seat-wise forecast or even percentage of votes the BJP could win as also that of its main rival, the Congress party, particularly since I don't possess the wherewithal and the requisite paraphernalia to make those loud claims.
Nevertheless, let us look at the past record and compare the present with the apparent political situation, staring Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his factotum Amit Shah in their home state, presumed to be an impregnable saffron citadel to a casual observer.
The BJP peaked in 2002 in the post-Godhra communal polarisation when Modi silenced all his critics by winning as many as 127 of the 182 Assembly seats. The Gujarat results came in the midst of a lunch thrown in by the the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), Vijay Goel. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy PM L K Advani, Modi's patron then, were all there and upon hearing the landslide, a beaming Advani rushed to Vajpayee and said, "We have swept Gujarat," to which Vajpayee replied, "and lost India." But that's a different matter. Returning to the issue at hand, the Congress which has been out of power in Gujarat for over two decades faced its worst rout in 1995 when it won only 45 seats. Mind you even in 2002, when Modi seemed to have saffronised and communalised the entire body politic of Gujarat, the Congress party did better than in 1995, winning 51 seats.
By 2007, some of Modi's sheen had started wearing off despite all the media hype around him. Besides, by 2004, the BJP's credibility graph had touched a low and so it lost marginally to the Congress in the general elections while the BJP-led NDA was routed by anti BJP forces all over the country. Yet Modi charisma held and thus he succeeded though with considerably reduced numbers winning 117 seats as against 127 in 2002 and the Congress improved its tally from 51 to 59.
Then came 2012, when almost all poltical observers even in Delhi were generally aware of the BJP/RSS plans to dump L K Advani and project Modi as the PM candidate for 2014 and thus Modi's graph was at its zenith while that of the Congress, following the all round media hype over the alleged scams of UPA, was at its lowest. A jaded and an infirm former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel made some half-hearted weak attempt to challenge Modi but then the people of Gujarat were anxiously waiting to see their big hero occupy the chair of the country's Prime Minister and so naturally all the pleadings of Keshubhai fell on deaf years of the enthusiastic Gujaratis. But even then, the Congress improved upon its 2007 tally, though only marginally from 59 to 60 and the BJP numbers too rose just slightly from 117 to 119.
Even Modi's best friends can't deny that the BJP and Modi's personal graph have taken quite a beating this time as is evident from the people's response: Empty chairs greeting Modi at one public meeting and people snatching and throwing in the air BJP rallyists' saffron topis and bandanas while the poor guys on motorcycles meekly drive off for fear of being beaten up in publilc in Surat, a saffron fortress since early 1990s. And while Modi cancelled his rally in Ahmedabad, his bete noire, the young Patel challenger Hardik took out his, thumbing his nose at the BJP government in the heart of the city, in spite of prohibitory orders. The administration dared not stop him for fear of a fallout on the election eve.
Similarly, almost all publilc meetings of Rahul Gandhi were not just well attended but the audience appeared pretty enthusiastic and responsive. Today the Modi/BJP popularity graph in Gujarat is visible to anyone as at its lowest since 2002 while the Congress graph correspondingly is at its peak. It is evident to a blind man that in this scenario, BJP numbers ought to be coming down not marginally but substantially and the Congress numbers should show a proportionate jump. You don't need a psephologist for that. And if anyone predicts otherwise, he is privy to the mischief of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) whose active role in manipulating the elections has now been proven beyond any doubt first in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls and now in the first phase of the Gujarat Assembly polls.
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