Although the rigorous election campaigns led by Congress president Rahul Gandhi with the support of a few activists, who fought against the conventional system hoping to create wonders through new political equations, did not see the expected success it certainly radiates positive hope.
The BJP that seized power in Gujarat for the sixth time sends a message that it is not that easy to rein in the hardline Hindutwa embodied by the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo. With Himachal Pradesh too snatched from the Congress, the number of states where BJP is currently in power becomes 19. At the same time, Congress is in power only in four states. But at the same time when the BJP retains power, losing 16 seats and he 115 it won previously in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, and the Congress successfully establishing supremacy in Kutch, Saurashtra and in north Gujarat areas, BJP’s success is waning. However, it should as well be comprehended that the calculations that the severe anti-incumbency sentiments and the Modi government' moves such as demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which pushed the nation into misery, might prompt the voters to change their stances, have gone wrong at least in the cities. Still the fact the Congress coalition was able to increase the member strength from 61 to 80 is not a trivial gain.
Many had predicted that in a battle waged by the Sangh Parivar deploying all the tactics to ensure power using the boundless prospects and facilities bestowed by the power base at the Centre, it was impossible to achieve success for the Congress which carried out its struggle using limited resources. Not only that, dispassionate observers had also reminded the Congress that it was irrational to believe that the Hindutwa politics, which has taken deep root in Gujarat through 22 years of power, could be uprooted by a few months of election campaign alone. It might be the Congress leaders alone who expected a spectacular victory in the election in which both Congress and the BJP directly locked horns and drew national attention through the most aggressive campaigns witnessed by the nation in recent past. Amit Shah had earlier bragged that he would throw out Congress from the state politics by winning 150 seats. The election results do not give him any reasons for cheer. Similarly, the outcome also proves that the people have given a jolt to the arrogance of Prime Minister Modi in believing that he could easily clinch a walk-over in Gujarat where he had ruled for over a decade.
As for Rahul, who took over the leadership of the Congress from his mother Sonia Gandhi recently, the poll results in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh might be disappointing. Only the outcome in Gujarat may bring some relief. It might be the first time that Rahul took on Modi all alone, directly in an election, without the support of Sonia. However, in a political platform where communal politics has permeated every cell of the political physiology of Gujarat, and polluted the minds of the people and with the government machinery saffronised from head to toe, Rahul can breathe a sigh of relief seeing the signs of change in stances as a huge gain. Given the party’s unstable foundation, the dearth of leaders with skill, eligibility or approval of the people, and disheartened supporters , the battle waged by Rahul Gandhi from such a pitiful state with strong determination to grab power from the Hindutwa forces who clung to power for over two decades however inconceivable, cannot be dismissed as trivial.
When no party was available to ally with and rely upon, three young guns entered the scene and opened a new political battlefront of the country through their activism, and the Congress's alliance with them heated up the poll atmosphere. The 24-year old Hardik Patel, who made his mark through the new movement Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, was instrumental in bringing the Patel community – which had formed the backbone of the BJP – to the Congress side. The emergence of Alpesh Thakore from backwad communities, and of Dalit leader Jignesh Mehwani, both of whom strengthened the hands of Rahul, is to be seen as good auguries for healthy politics of the future. The youth should be getting excited at the thought that young turks Alpesh and Mehwani will be present in Gujarat's legislative assembly. But Rahul Gandhi has also to come to grips with the reality that by merely holding election rallies on the eve of pollng or by rallying some community, without strengthening the party's foundation, victory will still be elusive. But this is also the time to ponder over the question how long a secular party like the Congress, caught in the fear or losing the majority community vote, can continue with the policy of 'appeasement' by stopping short of seeking the vote of minorities, and of not showing even Ahmed Patel on the dais.
In Himachal Pradesh, the BJP's victory was not unexpected. In the state where the Congress and BJP have been ruling in alternate turns, there were strong waves of anti-incumbency. At the same time, the BJP's calculations seem to have gone wrong in HP as evinced by the defeat of its chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal.