Battle Gujarat: Make or Break!


(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

Stating the obvious, Gujarat State Assembly elections are “Make or Break Elections” to include: High Commands; political parties; candidates; narrow sectarian groups; partisan media; and many others operating behind the scenes.

More importantly, its outcomes will determine the course or curse of politics of modern India: social harmony without which national unity vital for development is impossible particularly confronted by dynastic propagation and populism based on caste, communal and class coalitions.

Undeniably, highly polarized and populist politics at the national level are contra national security interests. How can national unity be possible based on socially divided fabric vertically and horizontally?

Also, to expect bitterly acrimonious leaders on all sides in ruthless pursuit of power by ‘hook or crook’ to ever forgive, forget and sink their bitter rivalry to forge consensus through debate, negotiation and conciliation – due processes of democracy – is a forlorn hope in posterity. So, democracy will be the ultimate loser.

Considering the high voltage-cum-high stakes campaigning, it is not so easy to predict possible outcomes at this stage of campaigning.

Also, media reports reveal free flow of money and liquor all over the state which is really the menace for democracy.

“Fake or Fraud” media sensationalism is making waves round the clock. Free for all allegations and counter allegations, quite vicious and unsubstantiated, that fly including the social media network add to the confusion and also vicarious entertainment. Already allegations of EVM manipulation favoring the BJP are making rounds!

As per ground reports in some sections of media as on date, RG and Congress Party has made foray and dent into erstwhile BJP strongholds.

Judging by the past performance visual media coverage of 2014 elections, media its pollsters and panelists except for one had proved woefully wrong. Will the same story repeat itself?

Of course, it goes without saying that people of Gujarat will be the ultimate arbitrators of poll outcomes.  How they will exercise their franchise none can predict.

Will BJP’s “Asmita – self respect’ and Vikas – development card” outweigh all other considerations like Congress Party “caste and communal based populism”?

Which factor will have far reaching influence on sentiments of people of Gujarat? Moreover, will it sway people across all Gujarat considering the caste and communal polarization by young leaders?

Can Rahul Ghandy-Hardik Patel (Patidar)-Jignesh Mewani (Dalit)-Alpesh Thakor (OBC)-JDU (Sharad Yadav)-Bharatiya Tribal Party/NCP-Muslims-farmers-diamond merchants etc upset Modi-Amit Shah’s BJP Juggernaut?

Add to it, the highly partisan media and social media networks on hyperactive mode to derail Modi-Amit Shah duo to regain their exclusive perks and privileges enjoyed in the past.

Your guess or judgment is as sound as mine! One thing is certain. Its outcomes will certainly set the course for future electoral outcomes to follow in the States, particularly in Karnataka where the Congress Party is in power, and the elections to be held to the Parliament and State Assemblies in 2019.

Yet, an attempt is made to provide ‘A’ perspective – three scenarios – as a spectator of the sordid unfolding drama: Modi led BJP retains majority; RGs coalition parties’ gains majority; and a hung assembly.

Should Modi led BJP retain majority (even reduced from the existing numbers), it may consolidate Modi’s position at the national level but also within the BJP.  Leaders like Yeshwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha will be totally made irrelevant and marginalized.

In contrast, RG and his attempt to forge alliances on caste and communal lines will be dealt a knock-out blow.  So also, it will send a powerful message against “Dynastic Leadership” propagation and populist promises. Of course, youth leader’s pretensions besides media build-up of bigger than life-size images around them will suffer a complete reverse.

Also, BJP regaining Himachal Pradesh, RGs leadership image will suffer a major blow particularly after the so called ‘rejig’ within the party.

Alternatively, should RGs coalition group crosses the 92 mark (182 total), it will certainly herald revival and resurgence of the Congress Party at the national level. All those in the opposition parties having any pretensions to the Prime Minister’s post will have to step aside and follow RG and the Congress Party pre-eminence at the national level. Let none suffer from any illusions.

In the BJP camp, there will be dissenting voices against Modi-Amit Shah duo. In fact, the “Old Guard” may rebel; and split cannot be ruled out. Of course, none should rule out the possibility of Modi led BJP to strike back with vengeance by invoking the “Hindutva Card” and the “Ram Temple” issue to polarize the Hindu majority all over again. Of course, Modi led BJP will strive hard and strike boldly on many key issues like bringing to book all corrupt and criminal cases and also resort to “populist measures’ (whilst in power) in the name of ‘vikash’.

Finally, in the case of “Hung Assembly” or if BJP loses power, the state of Gujarat will suffer the most goes without saying.

A word of caution. One week is too long a period particularly in Indian highly complex and dynamic politics.  A single event can change the “pollsters’ predictions topsy-turvy.

In sum, ‘CHAOS’ and political instability will the order in two scenarios until a new ruling dispensation emerges in the aftermath of 2019 elections or whenever they are held.

Hence, the reason for the ‘very high stakes’ in the final outcomes of Gujarat elections. Not only the future course of the nation and state are involved, but also leader’s futures are involved.

As spectators, one can only hope and pray for the people of Gujarat to exercise their franchise with utmost care and intelligence keeping not only their personal, group, caste, community and other vested interests in view, but also likely fallout on the course of national and stated politics in view.