New Delhi, Delhi, India
Dec 19, 2017, 12.20 PM
The recent verdict in Gujarat has confirmed that durability of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat is profoundly shaped by the identification of most of the voters with Narendra Modi. Despite all odds, voting for Narendra Modi was seen as a ‘symbolic crusade’, that is, as an attempt to reinforce the majoritarian Hindu-cum-Gujarati identity. In fact, their loyalties with him mattered a great deal than their preference for BJP. It is both a welcome sign and a warning for BJP. Welcoming in the sense that BJP has been able to ensure victories using the charisma of Mr. Modi. But the repetitive use of his charisma will exhaust the electorates if the party consistently fails to deliver its herculean promises. BJP has to find an answer for the consequences of Mr. Modi’s ‘future absence’ in the electoral campaigns. In other words, BJP has to answer, ‘after Modi who’.
Things are now changing. It is clearly evident that a substantial number of voters in Gujarat are no longer willing to identify with the BJP’s style of governance. The voters have given clear signals that if they are not treated fairly on the front of governance and inclusive economic growth, they may shift the balance quickly and dramatically. They have already turned the BJP’s ‘Congress-mukt Gujarat’ slogan, a superficial model of the campaign. It can be seen in the emergent competitiveness of the Congress Party with 80 Assembly seats.
Why did voters prefer BJP to rule Gujarat despite their disillusionment with most of its policies including GST, demonetisation and digitalisation? It was always clear that BJP is most likely to get the majority and will form the government in Gujarat. Gaining a thumping majority or thin majority was merely the question of arithmetic. The certainty of BJP’s win in Gujarat had many reasons. First, Gujarat while being an experimental laboratory for hardcore Hindutva has kicked out the exclusive notion of Hinduism long back. The harmonisation of business with Hinduism gave birth to corporate Hindutva or Majoritarianism. So the laboratory was still active in ranks and files with some normal dissensions. Thus, the much acclaimed substantive dealignment of voters from BJP was a loud noise only.
Second, we must remember that Narendra Modi is the product of half a century Manthan of this corporate Hindutva and also a face of Gujarat. It is assumed that as long as he is strong, Gujrat is on a strong pedestal too on every aspect of preferences. The smart business societies of Gujratis knew that very well. If he loses they also lose. Third, undoubtedly, there were discontents among Gujaratis but it was largely treated as family affairs.
BJP was a success in perpetuating the belief that the outsiders cannot take any benefits out of it. The message was loud and clear on the grassroots that Narendra Modi is there to take care of their grievances and if he cannot solve then others also cannot solve it. Fourth, Gujarat was not ready to trade Hindutva for some economic and political failures. BJP and its affiliated wings were clear that if that happens the whole Hindutva edifice may get weakened. Fifth, the grassroots management of cadres by RSS, VHP and other right-wing organisations was unprecedented. They worked tirelessly for their adopted Hindutva like a war against the infidels as the hardened Muslim fundamentalists think.
Sixth, there were many angry voters but they belong to Adivasis, Dalits and minorities. To be precise, they alone cannot mar the prospects of BJP due to their irrelevance in the larger scheme of things of electoral politics.
Seventh, Narendra Modi has played all cards correctly as far as pleading the voters of Gujarat is concerned. They cannot find a person better than him to represent their cause. It's too far-fetched for the Gujaratis to dump him. It would tantamount to dumping their own legacy. The message was circulated like a viral that Mr. Modi is in centre and he can give more than what the Congress can offer to Gujrat. Why would any Gujrati who are so shrewd businessmen make such uncalculated decision to vote out BJP? Lastly, BJP and its affiliates have already done wonders in spiritualising the women in particular. It has affected the voting preferences of women. Interesting, the collective identity of OBCs, Dalits, Adivasis and even Patidars have been turned patriarchal and masculine as a sizable number of their women have shown a pattern called Trans-patriarchal voting that too in favour of BJP.
To sum, the edifice of Corporate Hindutva might have been crumbled if the popular narratives of Alpesh Thakur, Jignesh Mewani and Hardik Patel would have been a success in attracting sections of the voters beyond their own castes.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)