CONGRESS PRESIDENT Rahul Gandhi would not have got a better gift on the first anniversary of his taking over as the party president. The news of Congress wresting power in three states was made sweeter for the party by the fact that the BJP could not win even in one of the five states where Assembly elections were held leading to a score card of 0-5.
The results hold out important lessons for both the main rivals, the Congress and the BJP. For the Congress it was a major turn around as it had lost 20 of the 22 Assembly elections since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The only exceptions were Punjab and Puducherry.
It would be fatal on the part of the Congress to think that it has set itself on road to a victory in 2019 general elections.
But it must keep in mind the fact that BJP continues to command a significant vote share even though it lost the elections. In fact the latest figures show that the BJP has a marginally higher vote share than the victorious Congress in Madhya Pradesh. It secured 41.0 per cent votes of the votes polled as compared to Congress party’s 40.9 per cent.
In Rajasthan too the margin was less than one per cent with the Congress getting 39.3 per cent votes of the votes polled against 38.3 per cent of the BJP. The vote share of Congress and BJP in Chhattisgarh was, however, wider at 43.1 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.
It clearly shows that the BJP has built up a strong cadre in these states and retains its support base which cannot be overlooked. Some analysts have calculated that the BJP, which had bagged 52 of the 65 seats Lok Sabha seats from these three states would stand to lose 31 Lok Sabha seats if the latest results are calculated for Lok Sabha seats. That would be a mistake as national factors count more in Lok Sabha elections as compared to the local issues in state elections.
Thus it would be fatal on the part of the Congress to think that it has set itself on road to a victory in 2019 general elections. BJP president Amit Shah whose arrogance has been rising with each victory has already said the party would introspect and analyse reasons for the defeat. Prime minister Narendra Modi too has congratulated the Congress and the two regional parties in Telengana and Mizoram for their victories. This is a far cry from the earlier declaration of a Congress-mukt Bharat
Complements must also go to Rahul Gandhi, who had been a butt of jokes and labelled as Pappu, for his balanced response after the victories in the three cow belt states. He was not arrogant in his reaction. Rather he was gracious in acknowledging the hard work put in by the outgoing BJP chief ministers and had no bad words for Narendra Modi. On the other hand he said he had learnt several things from Modi. He also made the point that unlike the BJP, his party’s aim would not be to wipe out that party but to defeat it through voting.
Complements must also go to Rahul Gandhi, who had been a butt of jokes and labelled as Pappu, for his balanced response after the victories in the three cow belt states.
In several ways Rahul Gandhi’s campaign speeches and his post-victory press conference was much better than some of his comments in the past statements. While it may be too premature to say that he has come of age, it appears that he has at last got a better set of advisors.
The election results have thrown up a challenge to the BJP on how to mould its Lok Sabha election campaign. Perhaps the biggest lesson for it is that too much reliance on its Hindutva
agenda, with Yogi Adityanath as its star promoter, would not work. A fringe of extreme Hindutva supporters, who tend to catch media attention with their sloganeering and aggressive behaviour, would not pave the way for the party’s return at the centre next year.
The Assembly elections results underline that the issues of development, employment, agriculture distress and economy must come to the forefront of the party’s agenda if it wants to retain power at the centre.
It should also be clear to the party that arrogance of power had done it no good. It needs to be humble about its achievements and be ready to accept its mistakes. Also it needs to listen to the people and the media rather than keep a one-sided dialogue through its own mann ki baat and push only its own version. It is time now to listen to the janta ke mann ki baat.
*(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career. - Ed)
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