The result of Gujarat election was a foregone conclusion with pundits contesting on the sweeping margins of BJP’s win. Unlike last time, Congress was missing from the field, giving space for AAP to make inroads and BJP to split the disgruntled voters. With more than 50 percentage of votes, BJP has secured seventh straight streak of victory. The unexpected debacle at Himachal Pradesh have been seemingly offset by saffron sweep at Gujarat.
The victory is great morality booster for Modi Shah juggernaut. This will further cement their domination in the party in the run-up to the 2024 general election. The murmurs of resentment about the autocratic leadership and discontent among RSS cadres will be subdued for the time now.
Notwithstanding the sweep of BJP and drubbing of Congress, this election holds many shards of thought for the politics about to unfold in the run -up to 2024 general election. BJP’s Hindutua laboratory is still intact and, moreover, it has evolved enough to accommodate subaltern Hindu communities. The loyal support from tribals and Scheduled Castes showcases the extent of ‘Mandalisation of Hindutva politics’. It’s to be noted that in the last assembly election this section defected to Congress and gave the party the closest shave to power once it was unseated in 1995. This time BJP was cunning enough to reengineer party giving adequate pie from electoral cake to all oscillating marginalized communities.
This again proves the underpinning idea in contemporary Indian politics that Mandal politics is not obsolete in the wake of Hindutva consolidation but saffron party has successfully subsumed Mandal demands within its expanding embrace. The subaltern accommodation in Hindutva, which brought Modi to power in 2014, is still yielding electoral dividends to the party.
The March of AAP to national prominence is to be noted with pinch of conviction. The party after sweeping Punjab is eyeing larger toehold in national politics. 12 percentage votes secured by AAP in Gujarat is impressive performance by a debutant in the state. Although in Himachal, the party failed to make ripple, in Gujarat it ate into Congress vote bank, helping BJP clinch humungous victory. AAP is denting the vote base of Congress as disgruntled voters are pinning hope on AAP as alternative to BJP. This performance will of course project Kejriwal as principal contender for prime minister post in 2024.
The Congress was reluctant challenger from the onset. Beset by factional feuds and absence of prominent faces from electioneering made the process cakewalk for the BJP. Rahul Gandhi took strategic timeout from election to crisscross country through Bharat Jodo Yatra. While BJP’s election machinery was working overtime, Congress energy was drained for the Yatra.
This time situation was not conducive for Congress as was the case in 2017. Patel protest under Hardik Patel, reservation worries, ST annoyance with BJP and anti-incumbency churnings had brought close to power. But this time Congress faced election without battle vigor and plan of action attractive to masses. Lack of urgency from Modi had signaled defeated posture of Congress. BJP ensured AAP to swallow opposition and neutral voters while not allowing AAP to grow bigger. The growth of AAP at Hindi heartland will pose great existential threat to Congress and electoral damage to BJP.
But Gujarat win and Himachal thrash of BJP is crucial for 2023 election year. Next year Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh are going to poll. Congress has high stakes in these elections and BJP cannot afford loose elections prior to 2024 general election. The aggressive expansion of AAP might pose threat to both.
Mubashir VP is research scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia. He tweets @mubashirdhiu