Age Debate: Back in the reckoning?

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Oped

The Congress’ performance in Gujarat shows that the party can fight back.

BJP president Amit Shah flashes victory sign as he is welcomed on his arrival at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Monday, after the party’s victory in the Assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. (Photo: Bunny Smith)

The days of the BJP are numbered
Ashish Dua

The BJP’s dream of a Congress-mukt Bharat should now go away. Gujarat almost became BJP-mukt Gujarat. The results are an answer to all those who had written off the Congress. The BJP has probably won by a whisker and the Congress has fallen short of just half-a-dozen numbers.

We believe that a party that had 41 MLAs and the support of 43 legislators has done exceedingly well and we are grateful to the people. In this election we were able to translate and convey our message to a large number of people, and we will reach out to those we could not reach out to or convey our message. In politics, it is a constant process.

The BJP should now understand that we will fight over the people’s pain and suffering, we will espouse their aspirations, we will restore the politics of dignity and development in this country and we will restore the political discourse to people suffering rather than individual blame-game in this country. We have lost in Gujarat, and that loss is a lesson for us but a bigger lesson for the BJP.

For the last three months, the entire Congress team led by Congress president Rahul Gandhi was active in Gujarat. Initially nobody was giving an outside chance to the Congress in the state. Under the direct charge of Mr Gandhi we have almost doubled our tally. The Congress campaign in the state steadfastly held on to development. Our issues were unemployment, farmer crisis, tribal issues and problems being faced by fishermen. From the other side there was a stunned silence on these issues.

To make our point, Mr Gandhi was also asking one question a day to the Prime Minister. But unfortunately there was no answer at all. This just goes on to show that the much-touted Gujarat model of development of the BJP is actually hollow. The BJP, including the Prime Minister, Gujarat chief minister and party president, were clutching at straws to attack the Congress.

Half the Union Cabinet along with MPs were permanently stationed in Gujarat, but in spite of that the BJP was reduced to double digits in its own bastion. In the hometown of the Prime Minister, the BJP candidate lost — such is the level of resentment.

The strange part of the BJP campaign was that it was not talking about its achievements in the last 22 years. There was nothing on that. Instead, it was constantly focusing on the Congress and Mr Gandhi, it went on to cast aspersions on the internal elections of the Congress too. Now the people of Gujarat saw the hollowness — that is why the Congress increased its tally to 77 seats, plus our allies.

This is the best electoral performance of the Congress after 1985 in Gujarat. Our local units braved through the attacks that were mounted on the Congress. While the central team worked in unison with local teams to improve our outreach, the National Students' Union of India, Youth Congress and Mahila Congress was out in full force to ensure that the message of the Congress reaches all. Since the election is over, it does not mean that the Congress will leave Gujarat. The state unit is having an introspection meeting in the coming days and Mr Gandhi will also be participating.

In the national arena too, the Congress is giving the BJP a tough fight. Just look at the local body election results that have come from Punjab and Rajasthan. The BJP, which is in power in Rajasthan, has lost all the four zila parishads.

This is just the beginning with our new president in command; the days of the BJP are numbered because we are here to stay.
The writer is an AICC member

Striving to gain power by hook or crook
Praveen S. Kapoor

A lot is being said about the performance in the just-concluded Gujarat Assembly elections, but to my eye what the Congress has achieved is the maximum you can achieve by spreading negativity and aligning with people playing casteist or emotional cards.

For long we have seen the communal appeaser face of the Congress, where the Gandhi family played saviour for a particular religious community, but in Gujarat we saw a new avatar of the Gandhis ready to do anything for a few more votes.

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to work on his agenda of Sabka saath, sabka vikas, in the Gujarat election we saw Congress president Rahul Gandhi trying to surcharge caste equations for petty political gain.

Gujarat is a state where the Congress has ruled on the basis of a caste polity game of its leaders in the 1980s, and also destroyed the communal harmony of the state, which witnessed repeated riots erupting due to provocations of those in power. Mr Modi and his predecessor chief ministers of the BJP, after the party gained power in mid-1990s, worked hard to bring people of all castes and religions on a common platform and converted the state into a most peaceful and progressive one. From India to America today, Gujaratis are considered the best entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, taking benefit of a world-over economic slowdown which hurts Gujarat too, a few caste leaders hyped issues of under-employment on caste lines and succeeded in gaining popularity. A few economic reforms ushered by the Centre too created some fears in entrepreneurs of the state.

The Congress, which has lost shine all over the country, specially in Gujarat, having been out of power for 22 long years, saw in it an opportunity to gain political power. The party succumbed to all demands of three caste musketeers — Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mewani — who have gained prominence in their caste communities. Like in the earlier Bihar and Uttar Pradesh polls, it readily agreed to play second fiddle to the newly-glorified caste champions of Gujarat.

The Congress, which under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Singh had ushered in economic reforms just to politically please Gujarati entrepreneurs, opposed the Goods and Services Tax and other economic reforms of present Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Congress leadership, during elections, often plays a religious Muslim community appeasement card, but in Gujarat Mr Gandhi dumped Muslims too by trying to project himself as a hardcore devout Hindu. Despite all this farce play of the Congress and a four-cornered campaign of Mr Patel, Mr Mewani, Mr Thakore and a wide section of the Opposition party leaders spread across the country, the people of Gujarat came out to vote in large numbers and by almost a decisive 50 per cent votes rejected the dirty caste alliance manufactured by the Congress.

I really pity Congressmen trying to project Mr Gandhi as the hero of Gujarat. To me, Gujarat has reiterated that it stands by development and for them Mr Modi stands out as a development icon.

Even the counting trends period gave a message that the country, specially economic investors, fear instability in the Congress’ return to power even in one state when the stockmarkets fell with early results showing a lead for the Congress in Gujarat.

It is time the Congress ponders about its future instead of making a joke of itself by repeatedly aligning with caste polity players like Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar, Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh and the three musketeers in Gujarat. Today the country feels the Congress is a party just striving to gain power by hook or crook.

The writer is a Delhi BJP spokesperson