Gujarat Elections

Missed Opportunity

Asis Ranjan Sengupta

The outcome of the Gujarat Assembly Election is really interesting for many reasons. Never before, the General Election in the Assembly of a particular state, became so crucial for the ruling party. This was mainly for its being the home turf of the self-styled charismatic leader, and also because it became the launching pad of the long awaited opposition leader’s ascend to the Royal Throne. The ruling party leaders engaged their whole battalion for a long time, leaving aside all national or international responsibilities, to wage the prestige war. There was no local leader, the entire machinery pathetically revolved round a single person. Curiously, another duel in Himachal Pradesh failed to draw any attention, so crucial was Gujarat.

The result, as usual, baffled everyone. All the ground level survey, field study, of course not the projection of the Electronic media, indicated the defeat of BJP, the incumbent. But as it happened in case of last Assembly Election in UP, the people's discontent was mounting, as a sequel to note ban exercise disaster, but the result failed to register the same. The common voters could not reconcile the fact how lotus could win, though all pressed button either in Cycle or Elephant symbol. But such mysterious outcome is now a natural phenomenon.

The suspicion gains ground from the last UP Civic Poll results. There also, very much like Gujarat, the rejection of the Saffron politics, by the rural mass was evident. Another important feature of the UP Civic poll results was that, the rural Gram Panchayats, where polling was in ballot, the performance of BJP was dismal, even their candidates lost deposits in half of the constituencies. But strangely, Electronic media, kept on harping on the string of 'clean sweep' publicity, just to uphold the morale of saffron brigade before the Gujarat election. But though there was no use of ballot in Assembly poll, the situation was different, but it be intriguing to conjecture what the results could have been, had it been conducted in ballots, and not EVMs. And at this point, the issue of EVM tampering finds space. In any case, the rural-urban divide was the common thread.

The Elections are political battle, and debates and discussions are expected to be on issues that are economic and political, and in terms of sharp language of arguments and cross arguments. But unfortunately, the invectives hurled in most ugly manner, and uncalled for languages, are really alarming as well as irritating are the low personal abuses, were appalling, and it puts a question mark on the standard of the so-called biggest democracy. The allegations of booth capturing, block voting, booth jamming, ballot loot, rigging, scientific rigging, were all familiar phrases in this celebrated democracy, and the latest addition is EVM tampering. Surely, Indian voters are maturing in so far as electoral and multi-party democracy is concerned. The vile personal attacks, nasty comments, filthy trolls, low communal gesture, stoking provincial sentiments, narrow casteist publicity, were all features of ' political ' battle, in which there was little substance of political economy.

The cat came out of the bag in the day of counting. As the results started pouring in the early hours, the situation was not comfortable for BJP. A repetition of the Delhi or Bihar elections in the past, where all exit poll predictions by the Pundits proved wrong was again a possibility. And quite expectedly the Sensex and Nifty indices of Indian Share Market, started falling sharply, but, no, that was not to be, as the day progressed, the news of saffron recovery news were coming in, and gradually, the inevitable victory was in sight, and then the Share indices started jumping upwards like wild Bull, crossed the starting mark, and finished with a great leap upwards. The chill that went through the spines of investors, eased, and there was a sigh of relief that the untoward development could be thwarted. This proves how the corrupt comprador and crony monopoly capitalists, over here are badly dependent on the distorted communal and violent saffron politics, for their survival. At this point it becomes clear why Congress staged a comeback only to a certain extent, the popular anger of masses were so vehemently reflected in election results, that Congress also did not expect perhaps.

For the Opposition, it was a great opportunity, which, they either missed or might be not serious to reap the harvest at popular discontent. Congress raised hue and cry on EVM tampering issue, towards the end, but, curiously enough became silent after being snubbed by the judiciary, which they knocked, but not in right earnest. Finally, it transpired, that Congress Party, though made a noisy come back, was not actually interested in capturing power, or to disturb the peace of Big Business Houses either, but, they were more interested in the fanfare of the coronation of Rahul Gandi in the throne of Presidency. The time selected was just prior to the poll result counting, and all is well, after the convincing defeat, and slipped to slumber again. But this very poll battle successfully gave rise to new activists and leaders, particularly from the backward or Dalit community and this is a very positive development.

The opposition under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, is no match with the foul mouthed, hate mongering, intolerant and hyper aggressive ruling dispensation, under the stewardship of Modi. In Congress Party and Rahul Gandhi, the saffron brigade found a convenient bag for its venomous punching. So much so that Rahul had to seek help of judiciary to stop the indecent 'pappu', slur on himself. Further, Modi and his party appears to have a comfortable opposition leader to promote their poisonous bites. The stance of Congress party is also rather defensive, except the Gujarat election, their campaign lacks cutting edge. Even during the earlier Assembly elections of Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur, they remained so satisfied with Punjab victory, that they never put a claim on the ministry formation in either Goa or Manipur, where they won, and allowed a facile 'walk over' to BJP who had lost the both. This compromising and adjusting attitude is conducive to saffronites, and thus Congress, the principal opposition party till now, evidently, fails to pay due honour to the faith reposed on them by the electorate. This is an advantage for BJP. In Gujarat election also, though they were more proactive than before, but still they lagged behind in consolidating the urban vote bank, in spite of the widespread discontent of middle class and traders, for demonetisation debacle, GST hardship, and prevalent joblessness, and loss of existing jobs. The rural vote share was spontaneous, but the urban vote bank needed greater penetration and organisational skill, which they failed to put up. That is another important lesson. So the opposition requires further gearing up in future.

Every cloud has its silver lining, the immediate dejection at the failure of near possible upset of the citadel of vested interest bastion, may be frustrating, but, at the same time, shows that nothing is impossible, no body or no powerhouse is invincible. Public, the very common, humble mass can turn the table and create history. The world today is suffering from want of true leadership and proper guidance, that is why, Trump, Kim or Modi are stealing the show, by their false rhetoric, ridiculous pomp and vague power show. Paper Tigers can rule in a world of make belief sanctuary for the time being, but they must be blown away at the strong gale of rebellion. The situation is very identical with the Czarist regime in Russia, or the Nazi Fascist era of Germany or Italy respectively, in pre-war days of Europe. One just needs meaningful leadership, not the opportunists like Anna Hazare or Kejriwal, the true politics of utilising the opportunities, coordinating the loose threads, and orchestrating the mass outrage, so as to transform the situation, for realisation of unfinished dreams.

Vol. 50, No.28, Jan 14 - 20, 2017