Politics is not a game of cricket in which even a losing team can claim a moral victory for playing hard and fair. In the game of politics, parties resort to all means, even if dirty. The Congress is celebrating moral victory in Gujarat. However, final numbers of Gujarat election results show the Grand Old Party as a clear loser, despite trying all possible means to storm into power in the state. BJP has won 99 seats, falling short of the Target 150 set by party chief Amit Shah. The Congress managed to get just 77 seats, which is also way short of 125 seats predicted by an online survey conducted by the party ahead of the verdict.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi led his most aggressive campaign in the state, directly targeting, and often mocking, PM Narendra Modi and his policies. The Congress also stitched new caste-alliances and hoped the apparent grievances of the electorates, as highlighted by several reports, would certainly help it come back to power in the state after 22 years. One of the opinion polls ahead of elections had predicted an almost equal fight between both parties. Congress’ hope of gaining Patidar votes by joining hands with Hardik Patel, attracting OBC votes by inducting Alpesh Thakore in the party were all dashed in the end. But the party continues to term Gujarat election result as its “moral victory”.
“The result is very good for us. True, we lost, but we could have won…”, Congress president Rahul Gandhi told media today. If the number of seats is taken as a benchmark of success, Congress can feel happy of having increased its tally from 61 in 2012 to 77 in 2017. But, should the party really celebrate or brainstorm on why it failed to win despite having the best chance to do so in over two decades?
On Campaign trail, Rahul Gandhi was closely followed by media. His speeches often evoked laughter from the audience, particularly his funny description of GST as ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’. His new acts like temple visits attracted condemnation from BJP leaders, who dubbed them as drama, as also from the secular-minded intelligentsia. Rahul had never attracted so much positive media attention in recent years. Gujarat 2017 was certainly his best chance to emerge as a leader who can win elections for his party. But he failed.
In terms of the number of seats, the BJP was reduced to 99 from 115 in 2017. But what may surprise many is the fact that despite so much of so-called anti-BJP wave in the state, the saffron party increased its vote-share from 47.85% in 2012 to 49.1% in 2017 (a total increase of around 1.2%). In Contrast, the Congress’ vote share increased by only 1.6% (from 38.9% in 2012 to 41.4% in 2016). Some top Congress leaders in the state like Shaktisinh Gohil and Arjun Modhvadia also lost the poll.
In Surat, which is the hub of traders, it was expected that the GST troubles, as highlighted by Rahul Gandhi, would help the Congress win most of the seats. However, the BJP won all 12 urban seats in Surat. All the anger against GST couldn’t translate into votes for Congress as traders decided to stick to a party seen to back the industry.
Rahul Gandhi’s Patidar gamble also failed to pay back as the Patels voted differently in different areas. Congress managed to win seats in Amreli, Morbi, Dhoraji of Rajkot, Visavadar in Junagadh, Unjha of Mehsana district as anger against agrarian policies of BJP government along with Hardik Patel factor worked in favor of the party. The BJP scored wins in Patidar-dominated seats of Surat Varachha Road, Katargam, and Kamrej.
Despite the loss, however, Rahul Gandhi can take consolation from the fact that the Congress managed to challenge BJP upfront and may hope to shock the saffron party in the state in 2022 – the year by which Modi wants to herald ‘New India’.