“When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurlyburly's done/ When the battle's lost and won/Fair is foul and foul is fair/ Through the fog and filthy air,” says Shakespeare. In a so near- yet-so-far fashion, Rahul Gandhi tasted his first defeats as the President of the Congress Party.
Not a good way to begin. The BJP win in Gujarat and, of course, Himachal Pradesh stands today as a tribute to the never-say-die spirit of the Modi-Shah duo. Everyone knew that the first phase had slipped out of the BJP hand or at least brought it to the photo-finish line when Modi unleashed his "all is fair in war' strategy and latched on to every word uttered by the Congress leaders.
If someone were not to call Modi 'a Neech' and someone else were not to oppose the SC hearing the Ram Mandir/Babri Masjid case, if yet another were not to physically attack a Swami Narayan Cult guru before the second phase, perhaps, the BJP would have faced an embarrassing situation and a face-loss.
No one would say Congress lost badly, but if a more serious approach to the elections was adopted, the party could have done the miracle. But, it went on to commit mistake after mistake in Gujarat. It should not have depended so heavily on the three musketeers of the State – Hardik, Jignesh and Alpesh.
It should not have destroyed its party's base itself and the very leadership in handing over the steering to an outsider, Ashok Gehlot. It should not have made up Rahul Gandhi a 'Janyudhaari Shivbhakt Brahmin' as the BJP has long ago patented the Bhakt brand. Its falling back on the caste politics did not help it as a quintessential Gujarati prefers ending his day with a look at the balance sheet.
The loser also lost track of the ground reality that while he was banking on the Patidars, the BJP, thanks to the RSS, had assiduously worked for the welfare of Tribals in North Gujarat that balanced its books in the end. It also forgot that the traders and businessmen are quite resilient in the State and reforms like the GST and the demonetization would have been analysed carefully by them.
This is the problem with the grand old party. It is just aging and losing. As Thucydides says in the History of Peloponnesian War, “in a democracy, someone who fails to get elected to office can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it.”
What next for the BJP? Well, the party should do lots of introspection if it needs to address the threat perceptions such as these. We could be sure that it would go ahead with the big ticket reforms boldly now.
But will it realise that while it has the go-ahead of the people for its economic agenda, it has to address the crisis in agrarian sector and unemployment issues far more meticulously? And why its 'Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas' plan needs a relook? Uneven growth does not help even a Modi!