As the Rahul Gandhi put up a good fight in Gujarat, but still lost the elections to the Modi, here is a look at the important takeaways for the party this time.
In the last Gujarat Assembly elections in 2012, the Congress had won four out of the 21 seats in Ahmedabad and drew a blank in Vadodara. Congress could win only one out of the 16 seats in Surat. Out of its 61 seats, 55 came from rural areas. Although the situation improved marginally this time, the party’s inability to catch the imagination of the urban voters – despite Rahul Gandhi’s newfound popularity on social media platforms – continues to be a cause of worry. The big takeaway for the Congress in Gujarat is that it will have to think out of the box to end its unhook with the urban voters.
Compact and affiliation important
Despite the BJP’s best efforts, it could not polarise the elections on religious lines. And the high reason for that is the division in the Hindu community, like the disenchantment among the Patidars and the Dalits. In many seats, which the BJP managed to win narrowly, Political parties like the NCP and the BSP could have made a difference. The Congress may have narrowed down the difference, but the BJP is still unbeatable. The difference – from a 2019 general elections point of view – would be alliances, dependable ones at that, – to challenge the BJP dominion.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke in Gujarati and connected well with the masses, Rahul Gandhi – the party’s star campaigner – did face the language handicap. Rahul, of course, cannot learn Gujarati or for that matter any other regional language. The problem is that the Congress did not have a leader in Gujarat with a pan-state appeal. For a party which has a 38.9 percent vote share in Gujarat, it cannot blame anyone but itself for not support and cultivating a strong leader or leaders over the years. The party faces a similar challenge in states like West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu.
Rahul Gandhi spent 17 days in Gujarat travelling the length and range of the state, with a top-down campaign. What the Congress lacks in Gujarat, and for that matter many other states, is a strong organisation at the ground level which can transform the atmosphere into votes. While the BJP, being a cadre party, has a strong organisation right from booth level complemented by the RSS machinery, the Congress has gaping holes in the organisation. The connect with the masses can be made only when workers at the ground level establish a direct contact with the voters.
Stomach to fight:
The activ campaign that Rahul Gandhi and the party waged in Gujarat was refreshing for the grand old party which has to fight several bipolar state elections in the run-up to the general elections in 2019. The Congress will be up against the BJP in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh next year. The respectable number of seats the party got in Gujarat and the fact that it made the BJP sweat could give a big boost to the Congress and is a big lesson to it. The message is clear. A well-oiled and focused campaign can make a difference. But more than that, the party has to show the stomach to fight.