The Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections ended after a long dramatic political war between the arch political rivals. The elections had been a litmus test to prove the credibility of Modi-Shah duo and Rahul Gandhi’s leadership abilities. The results are out, and the Bharatiya Janta Party managed to secure a majority to form a government in both the States. The numbers speak for themselves as in the state of Himachal Pradesh the BJP managed to overthrow the incumbent Congress Government by securing 44 seats whereas in Gujarat the incumbency factor did not do much harm to the already existing BJP government as they managed to secure 99 seats to establish a majority to form a government. But, the result itself indicates several factors to the change in numbers.
Gujarat Elections Overshadowing the Hill State
The elections were closely watched as many things were dependent upon its final verdict. The revival of Rahul Gandhi was seen during the election campaigning. He vociferously attacked the government’s failure on many fronts. He took several jibes on the government’s failure to fulfill its promise of good governance. The opposition in Gujarat united under the garb of growing discontent amongst both rural and urban centers. The Dalit issue took the center-stage with independent and strong leaders like Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor campaigning against the BJP’s negligence to address atrocities against the Dalits. The Congress attacked the Modi government’s decision of demonetization and GST which affected both the business and farming communities. The Patidar agitation was seen as a big backdrop to the BJP’s stronghold in Gujarat. Leaders like Hardik Patel openly supported the Congress for its anti-incumbency stand in Gujarat and reservation for Patidars considered as a major impediment to BJP as it divided a major vote share. The elections in Himachal Pradesh were contested against the Congress Government. The issue was centered on anti-incumbency and failure of Congress Government to tackle growing incidents of crime and allegations of corruption against the top leaders of the State. The BJP used the anti-incumbency card and relied its campaign upon it. The result indicates the successful strategy adopted by the BJP to secure adequate votes for forming a government. But, the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections were more or less overshadowed with the elections in Gujarat. The reason behind is simply Narendra Modi, as his political journey started from Gujarat to Delhi and Gujarat knew to be his home turf became more important to test the Modi wave which many claimed to be deteriorating.
The journey from campaigning to voting to results faced many controversies. The controversy started with the delay in the announcement of the election dates in Gujarat by the Election Commission. Many commentators eyed on this delay as an influence by the Centre on the functioning of the ECI. The Election Commission under heavy criticism finally announced the dates. The BJP again came under heavy criticism of breaching the privacy when the alleged sex tapes of Hardik Patel were leaked which were used as an election stunt to question the moral ground of a leader. The allegations of money power to illicitly influence leaders of the Patidar movement by Narendra Patel at a press conference raised many questions upon the use of money power to harm the principle of free and fair elections. The BJP was cornered on many fronts. The strategy to play the Hindu card by questioning Rahul Gandhi’s motive of visiting temples or allegations against Ahmed Patel of having terrorist links backfired against the BJP. The campaigning took an ugly turn when there were personalized attacks and character assassinations by leaders of both the sides. The Vikas agenda took the backstage. The BJP in retaliation attacked in full force by deploying top ministers in the State and using Narendra Modi as an ace to win the electorates. The Modi card worked again but the numbers have dropped tremendously.
Strong Leadership with Collective Performance
The moot question was whether the collective anti-BJP campaign of the Congress will be good enough to overtake BJP. Well, it is not in affirmative. But, the Congress managed to set a benchmark. Ever since the 2002 elections, the number of seats has dropped incessantly. The Modi factor may have worked throughout to maintain a stronghold, but the local leaders should take a lesson from this victory to improve their credibility rather than relying everything on one person. This victory may have come on the backdrop of weak opposition which is also not entirely true as Rahul Gandhi and many young leaders have emerged as a strong face against many local leaders. Even in the State of Himachal Pradesh the party could not rejoice with full force due to the defeat of State Chief Ministerial candidate Dhumal. Many top leaders of Gujarat have also failed to secure a seat which brings ahead many challenges to the entire party’s performance overall. The BJP leadership have received another opportunity to fulfil all its promises in the next five years to regain the confidence of the electorates and not rely on the sole vision of one person. India’s electoral system is successful because it stands on the principle of participative democracy and it is not a one man’s show. So, popularity of one leader can be a plus point, but every individual must realise the effectiveness of collective performance.