The year was 1994, a senior Congress leader and a two time Chief Minister of Gujarat, Chimanbhai Patel had passed away. The Congress after much deliberation decided to appoint a relative political lightweight, Chhabildas Mehta as the Chief Minister. Most people who are not from Gujarat might not have heard his name, but after an intense power struggle, Mehta took oath as the Chief Minister, till the state elections in 1995. That was the last time that the Indian National Congress has ever had a Chief Minister in Gujarat.
Technically even the mandate in 1990 was not for a Congress government. In the 1990 elections, the BJP and Janta Dal got a 3/4th majority and the Congress was reduced to 33 seats. It is only when that alliance broke, did the Congress offer support. Subsequently Patel continued as CHIEF MINISTER and Mehta then took over for a year.
It is very important to note these two events, because after that in the 1995 election, the BJP won a huge majority and installed Keshubhai Patel as the Chief Minister. This did not go too well with Shankersinh Vaghela. To placate him Suresh Mehta, another lightweight was made the Chief Minister. Less than a year later, Vaghela rebelled to form RJP and became the Chief Minister with Congress’s support. After that did not work out, Dilip Parikh, a Vaghela loyalist became the Chief Minister. In just over 4 years, Gujarat had gone through six Chief Ministers and a month of presidents’ rule.
Then came Keshubhai’s 2nd innings which lasted 3 years. But owing to his unpopularity he was replaced with, Narendra Modi. Things changed drastically since. Never in the history of Gujarat, had the citizens seen such political stability. It is very important to remember the khichdi that existed before. Mr. Modi took oath in Oct 2001. 16 years have passed since, he is now the PM and Gujarat has had 2 Chief Ministers. What has fundamentally changed vis a vis Gujarat, one wonders? Is it same issues that dominate or are the issues different?
When one travels across Gujarat and talks to people, one sees significant changes. The issues have changed significantly. The attitude towards the government has changed. The understanding of what role the government plays in your day to day life has evolved. The development model is evolving. But the only thing that has not evolved in all these years is the Congress party.
Some of the Chief Ministers that Congress has had since the 80s include Madhavsinh Solanki, Amarsinh Chaudhary, Chimanbhai Patel. The current leadership includes Bharatsinh Solanki, Tushar Chaudhary, Siddharth Patel, Shaktisinh Gohil and others. The first 3 are dynasts, with Solanki being the PCC chief. If you look at the history of the Gujarat Congress it is the same tired faces leading them to one defeat after another, in the last few elections. But this time it is different, they haven’t changed their campaign or offered an alternative view, they just have added the senior most dynast from Delhi, Rahul Gandhi to the campaign.
Since then, after proclaiming that Rahul will change the campaign, the usual suspects in the media have claimed that irrespective of the outcome, Rahul is the winner. I don’t understand what they mean by this. If he truly has changed the game, shouldn’t the Congress be sweeping the polls and if he has not and loses yet another election in his huge list of election losses, why do they still claim that he is the winner?
The answer lies beyond the studios of Delhi. The answer is on the streets of Gujarat. For the last 16 years, there has been a sustained campaign by certain NGOs, ‘intellectuals’, faux liberals and some media personalities with the invisible blessing of Congress to target Narendra Modi and the Gujarat model of development. As I have said repeatedly, the Gujarat Model isn’t flawless and the last 3 years haven’t been perfect as well. But it is still the better option and especially so when you compare to what the Congress has to offer.
The opposition space in Gujarat had been ceded to certain NGOs and left wing activists who kept attacking the Gujarat model for ridiculous reasons. Every 5 years they found a new issue to attack, lost an election and then found a new issue to justify their losses. Their arrogance and refusal to admit their contempt for people not ascribing to their ‘Idea of India’ has resulted in a Congress nosedive in Gujarat. Enter, Rahul Gandhi who suddenly wants to do a volte face from the campaign that his mum and her activist friends led but without offering any alternative vision.
This ‘new foray’ is a part of (and they might as well call it) Rahul Gandhi Redevelopment Yojana, he may be trying hard but he represents an idea where dynasty is awarded over merit and power is taken without responsibility. Not once has he faced criticism for a loss nor has he assumed any administrative role in the two UPA governments. In spite of that he remains the president in waiting for the Congress and ostensibly their PM candidate.
BJP is in a solid position in Gujarat, but the ground isn’t as solid as it was in 2012. Since Modi, two years of Anandiben weren’t exactly smooth sailing. There were some hiccups, some significant governance issues and although the hiccups have reduced they do exist for Vijay Rupani. The GST implementation and the issues with it have hit the traders badly, and although many acknowledge the positives of it in the long term, there have been some short term issues. With Demonetization and GST impacts, the BJP could see some erosion of support but their base remains solid and they should cross 100 seats, even if it is only just.
What Rahul Gandhi fails to acknowledge is that the roads, power, agriculture are not poll issues in Gujarat. The BJP government has done very well on these. And then you have double speak on issues like Sardar Sarovar where the State Congress might say one thing but the NAC wallahs and left wingers in Delhi close to the Congress might oppose it. This double speak looked facile when Sonia Gandhi used the term ‘Maut ka Saudagar’ and when congress party started liberally using the word fascism to describe the government.
Under Modi, Gujarat has made some great achievements, the last 2 years the progress has been slower and in the positive direction. Rather than improving on it or focusing on issues that matter Rahul Gandhi and his band od dynasts represent the same failed rule of the Congress which reduced it to 33 seats. KHAM or No KHAM, Alpesh Thakor or Hardik Patel don’t matter as much if the ldea that the Congress is selling is ridiculous. So far, nothing seems to suggest otherwise. The Congress can continue listening to the journalists who have claimed victory for Rahul before the polls or the faux activists. They are close to losing another election badly and listening to these folks will only increase that margin of defeat.