Gujarat Election Results 2017: How ‘neech’ comment helped PM Narendra Modi beat Congress

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New Delhi | Updated: December 18, 2017 4:51:27 PM

Gujarat Election Results 2017: Unfortunately, politics is not like cricket where you sledge each other on the field, shake hands after losing the match, have beer at a bar and play in the same team in a cash-rich league, two months later.

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When the counting of votes for Gujarat Assembly Elections started on Monday morning, not too many people had given Congress a chance. Following its clean sweep in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections earlier this year and a crushing defeat in UP civic polls, the party was completely written off. It appeared that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of ‘Congress Mukta Bharat’ isn’t far from being a reality. But, on Monday, we witnessed a different wave in Gujarat as the party not only bounced back from these setbacks but also gave BJP a run for its money in a state that the latter has ruled for over 22 years now. At one stage, Congress was leading on more seats than the Bharatiya Janata Party which must have come as a shock even for the party loyalists.

Unfortunately, politics is not like cricket where you sledge each other on the field, shake hands after losing the match, have beer at a bar and play in the same team in a cash-rich league, two months later. In politics, a loss like this sends you into exile for the next five years, only to re-emerge and make headlines just months before the next assembly elections. Given that how close this election was, Congress will go back and remember that one moment when senior party leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, in the heat of the moment or otherwise ended up calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘neech’ (someone of a low caste).

On December 7, with just two days left for the first phase of polling for the Gujarat elections, Mani Shankar Aiyar’s jibe against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, only brought embarrassment to his party. The remark, as expected, was well exploited and used against Congress by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who minutes after Shankar’s comment lashed out at him at a rally.

Interestingly, many people believe that Aiyar’s ‘chai-wala’ barb at Modi during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls helped the then BJP prime ministerial candidate a great deal as he often referred to it in his campaign to highlight his humble background and attacked the Congress.

As it happened, history repeated itself.

Yes, this time Congress was more vigilant about it and Aiyar was immediately suspended from the party. Rahul Gandhi took note of the situation and publicly criticised him by stating that he doesn’t “appreciate the tone and language’ used by him. “Both the Congress and I expect him to apologise for what he said,” Rahul said, after using the opportunity to hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party for “routinely “using “filthy language to attack the Congress party.”

This was as good a damage control exercise as we have seen in Indian politics but the question that will haunt Congress for years to come is that: ‘Was that comment actually needed?”

The answer is: NO!

All was going well for Congress until that point. Rahul Gandhi, in his new avatar, was an instant hit among the public. His tweets were being liked, speeches were being praised and humour was being appreciated. Congress also got the support of Patidar leader Hardik Patel who emerged as a strong leader of masses in this election. Unlike, all the other elections of the recent past, there was no Modi wave.

Yet, the grand old party gave BJP and Narendra Modi a chance to remind people that he is the ‘son of Gujarat’ and his insult is the insult of the state.

In spite of this loss, all is not done and dusted for Congress. Rahul Gandhi has emerged as a powerful alternative in last 6 months, erasing all doubts over his credentials. It was indeed a huge moral victory for Congress but as we said, unfortunately for them, this wasn’t a game of cricket.

However, it must be noted that words alone cannot make or break an election, performance on the economy matters too. In this respect, PM Modi has flashed his development agenda achievements many times to win over voters.

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