Gujarat Elections: Is it Really a Congress’ Comeback?
- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed both the states, but the Congress is not entirely dark.
- Paradox of the BJP’s higher vote share and lower number of seats somehow gives a clearer picture that can help untangle the kind of election that has been concluded in Gujarat
- The BJP needs to work on resolving rural distress before entering the campaign for the states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and should have all the different strategies for the Northeastern states like Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura
The parties are having the aftermath of results of the elections to the state assemblies of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. At one side, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed both the states, but the Congress is not entirely dark. The party can easily claim that the defeat of the ‘palm’ in Himachal Pradesh might be the part of a pattern where both the parties, BJP and Congress have managed to grab the power since 1993. Congress did say that Rahul Gandhi’s spirited campaign made BJP scared and resulted in narrowing the latter’s winning margin to a greater extent. While on the other side, BJP might claim that it added Himachal Pradesh as one of winning feathers in its hat and managed to retain Gujarat with an enhanced vote share.
But then, the paradox of the BJP’s higher vote share and lower number of seats somehow gives a clearer picture that can help untangle the kind of election that has been concluded in Gujarat. The matter of fact is, BJP got 49.1% votes in Gujarat in Monday’s counting which is the saffron party’s second highest tally since the year 1995, the highest one (49.9%) was achieved in the year 2002. Still, the party couldn’t even touch the 100 mark, and got settled with winning just 99 seats (BJP’s lowest since 1995). Earlier, it was 115 in 2012 with a 47.9% vote share.
Now the question prevails, why did it happen? the first thing reasons it well is, Congress also increased its vote share. The Congress party has put on its best performance in 22 years by getting 41.4% votes for itself and another 1% for its allies. Also, the Congress and its allies are slowly filling the gap by getting 6.7% which, previously used to be 8% in 2012.
The second reason could be the winning margin. In the 99 seats won by BJP, the party got a very high victory margin of almost 30,000 votes. While Congress had the smaller victory margins of around 13,000 votes. Now, the astonishing thing is, the difference between the average victory margins of the BJP and Congress, is of more than 16,500 votes and has been readily increasing. In 2012, it was close to 13,000 votes and in 2007, it was a little more than 12,500 votes.
In Gujarat, the Congress party has improved its performance in all the regions but it majorly gained in Saurashtra which is also the centre of the Patidar agitation. But when we see the rural-urban divide, BJP does much better than Congress. The Saffron party won 48 urban seats against the Congress’ just 10. Not to mention, as it was wrongly anticipated that demonetization might harm the BJP in Uttar Pradesh but it didn’t, the same way, initial days of the goods and services tax (GST) roll-out seems not to have harmed much in Gujarat. But the scene gets little less lucid in the rural seats for BJP, where the Congress won 67 seats compared to the BJP’s 51. The victory margin of BJP has been almost four times that of the Congress in urban areas.
Challenges are clear now. The BJP needs to work on resolving rural distress before entering the campaign for the states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and should have all the different strategies for the Northeastern states like Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura. While the Congress party needs to concentrate on attracting the urban voters in a rapidly urbanizing country, though the challenges are still different for the Northeastern states. In Meghalaya, the Congress is in power, and there it needs to be holding hard to not lose its ground. The Congress should seriously consider empowering city-level institutions in the states it governs.
Talking about the national implications, the addition of Himachal Pradesh in the reign of BJP including its allies, now controls 19 states in India. And if the party manages to win Karnataka or Meghalaya next year, Congress would be left with no state with 15-plus Lok Sabha seats. Hence, it must be said that, despite whatever the positive signs it gathered to feather in Gujarat, Congress should sharpen its weapons to win the battleground next year.