Gujarat state legislative assembly polls – one of the most important political events of the year – has now drawn to a close. The verdict of the people of Gujarat is clear now. Or is it? The mandate in Gujarat was quite enough for BJP to beat 22 years of anti-incumbency but it has fallen short of Amit Shah’s Mission 150 by a considerable gap. In fact, the BJP has not been able to even muster up the numbers that it had in 2012. BJP has managed to gain 99 of the 182 Legislative Assembly seats while Congress has managed to secure 77 seats (In 2012, BJP had won 115 and INC 61 seats).
BJP – Still the same?
The one thing that clearly won the BJP a thumping majority in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was the “Modi Wave”. PM Modi’s charisma, his promise of a glorious India, and his impeccable oratorical skills made Indians overwhelmingly elect his party to the centre. If we are to go by the results of the Gujarat elections, however, it seems that the Modi wave is fizzing out. Add to this the woes caused by demonetization and GST roll out and the BJP’s victory in 2019 may not look very certain.
Reemergence of Congress
The verdict returned by the people of Gujarat has left us, the observers of political developments in the country, in a state of indistinct puzzlement. PM Modi, Amit Shah and the BJP leaders of the state wanted us to believe that Gujarat has been the stellar model of growth and development in the country. The Congress, on the other hand, wanted us to believe that the state is in the grip of crippling unemployment, poverty, and social inequality. While neither version may be true, it is quite clear that the INC has managed to steady its teetering gait in Gujarat. The Patels, who had been dissatisfied by the outcome of their agitation, seem to have breathed a new life into the party. The well-timed elevation of Rahul Gandhi as party president and Rahul’s personal involvement in the state election campaign seems to have impressed quite a large number of voters. The seat has gained 16 seats over its 2012 tally. Will this infusion of new spirit help Congress gain the requisite momentum to put up a stiff resistance in 2019? The answer to this remains with time and depends on the efforts the party is likely to put in over the next year.
The Upper Hand in the Upper House
One of the important questions that require our attention is BJP’s strength in the Rajya Sabha or the Upper House of the parliament. In fact when the BJP gained complete majority in the Lok Sabha in 2014, its lack of sufficient support in the Rajya Sabha stuck out as a sore thumb. The Rajya Sabha’s role in the legislation process is a diminished one but BJP remains on tenterhooks when any bill is referred to the Upper House for its vote, particularly those which opposition parties are not keen to endorse. BJP has been systematically working at improving its regional presence and thus build up its strength in the Rajya Sabha (members of Rajya Sabha are elected by members of State Legislative Assemblies).
Despite its victories in state vidhan sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and now Gujarat, BJP alone is unlikely to make it past the halfway mark in the Rajya Sabha, at least till 2019. Rajya Sabha members are elected to a 6 year term and a third of the seats are up for election every two years. The next biennial elections are due in 2018 and states such as UP, MP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and 9 other states will hold Rajya Sabha elections. Even if BJP or the NDA combine manages to muster 15 of the 65 seats up for grabs, it will merely get to the 91 mark (in a house with 233 elected representatives and total 245 MPs). This means that the BJP’s reliance on its allies is likely to remain high despite the victory in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
Can we predict 2019?
2019 is still a year away. In the meanwhile 8 important states including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan go to polls (state legislative assembly elections) in 2018. The momentum that BJP manages to gain in these will determine the popularity that the party retains for 2019 Lok Sabha elections. As of now the Indian electorate is growing more politically conscious and discerning in its outlook.