It was in September 2013 that the BJP decided to back Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for the upcoming 2014 general elections. What followed thereafter till 16th May, 2017, the day results were announced, is a history known to all. Those 9 months saw unprecedented levels of campaigning and propaganda. The event-management and image-building exercises that are usually the characteristics typical of American elections was at display for the first time in Indian polity. Modi-figure emerged as the pinnacle of all that is good in this world. From 2 year old children to 80 year old senior seniors, everyone seemed to have been chanting slogans like “Har Har Modi, Har Ghar Modi”, “Abki Baar Modi Sarkaar”, which became buzzwords. However, this propaganda that was built around the figure Narendra Modi, was not just an empty rhetoric or the work of an extraordinary PR team– there was substance to it too. The Indian public would not have blatantly accepted whatever was being said. Critics said that politics is more about what is perceived than what actually is and that the purported Gujarat model was only a media-creation. This article presumes an opposing narrative that the Gujarat model existed. Electoral facts support this claim –Modi-led BJP had won the 2012 Gujarat Assembly elections for the third consecutive time. Given the anti-incumbency factor, it must be derived that the majority had been happy with Modi’s leadership in Gujarat. But now, in 2017, the clocks seems to have come full circle.
A Must Win for BJP
There are more than one reason as to why Gujarat assembly polls hold great significance to both the BJP and more importantly, to Modi personally. Since Modi vacated the seat of Chief Minister, there has been a great degree of instability in Gujarat. Anandiben Patel and Vijay Rupani have failed to provide the kind of leadership that the people had become accustomed to. This was, however, natural. As it often happen in politics, a vacuum gets created when one big personality around whom everything had earlier revolved, moves away or retires. After Modi, there was no second ‘leadership’ which was cultivated within BJP. Due to years of continuous rule by BJP in the state, neither of the two parties (Congress and BJP) could provide a suitable replacement. A cumulative result of a leader-less Gujarat was manifested in rising desperation among the common masses. Another byproduct of this void has been the emergence of “new” leaders like Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani, who have tapped the feelings of resentment of people at the grassroots-level.
To further exacerbate trouble for BJP, the haphazard implementation of GST, just when people were starting to recover from the adverse effects of demonetization, also had a great impact on middle classes, especially the trading community. Gujarat has a reputation of being a business-friendly state and its society has also been historically dominated by rich traders and businessmen who have generously provided support to earlier the Congress and later to the BJP. This core vote base of BJP seems to be alienated today.
Narendra Modi, as the Prime Minister of India, has taken some “bold” moves in the last 3 years, but it is too early to take up a detailed and academic study of their their impact on the Indian economy and society.
Nonetheless, upcoming elections will most certainly provide glimpses of reality. In this context, Gujarat election is of utmost importance to Modi. If the BJP fails to retain power in this crucial state, it may provide the much needed momentum to the opposition to stand firmly against the BJP in 2019. Modi’s clear aim is seeking a re-election in 2019, but for that to happen, he needs Gujarat today. It is Gujarat that made Modi the messiah of development, and the onus to keep that image alive is on Gujarat yet again.
The best thing about elections is its unpredictability. People make and break dreams through ballot. Let’s wait and watch whose dreams get realized and to what effect.
– Contributed by Kunwar Suryansh
Picture Credits: twitter.com