Gujarat & Himachal Poll Verdict: What Political Pundits Had to Say
The results are out and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been ruled victorious – twice over.
The results are out and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been ruled victorious – twice over.(Photo: The Quint)

Gujarat & Himachal Poll Verdict: What Political Pundits Had to Say

After the junta’s verdict, now political pundits from across the spectrum have offered their insights on the BJP’s win in the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections.

 Supporters of the Congress celebrate outside a counting centre in Ahmedabad on 18 December.
Supporters of the Congress celebrate outside a counting centre in Ahmedabad on 18 December.
(Photo: AP)

Also Read: BJP Won Gujarat, But GST, Caste & Anti-Incumbency Made Them Sweat

While the Gujarat elections stole the limelight from the Himachal polls, most analytical pieces in major Indian dailies focused on how the twin victories had set the stage for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Here’s a look at what various publications made of the verdict:

The Times of India

In an article titled ‘Why Gujarat Verdict Heralds BJP 3.0’, Nalin Mehta and Jai Mrug argue that the 2019 general elections will be a fight between Modi’s BJP 3.0 and Rahul’s Congress 2.0.

While the caste cowboys delivered for Congress in the Hardik Patel/Alpesh Thakore heartland in Mehsana and Patan, their advances set off the making of a new ring of saffron in the adjoining areas of central Gujarat with counter-mobilisation by other castes. Incisive Congress advances into new areas were also undermined by its inability to hang on to many of its 2012 seats. That may well be the story of the election.
Why Gujarat Verdict Heralds BJP 3.0 in The Times of India

While BJP 1.0 was the party’s caste alliance against the Congress in the 1980s, and BJP 2.0 consisted of Modi’s personality and Hindutva politics post-2002, the party’s third avatar is a bit different, the authors state.

Also Read: The District That Decided Gujarat – Why Congress Failed in Surat

The Economic Times

In The Economic Times’ piece titled ‘The Amit Shah School of Election Management Endures’, Neerja Chowdhury writes that these results are "likely to make 2019 a ‘Modi vs Rahul’ battle”. She also says Congress’ strategy to form alliances was a wise one:

Rahul’s strategy to rope in the Hardik-Alpesh-Jignesh Mevani trio to create the atmospherics for change early on in the campaign was wise. Aligning with leaders of a movement is a strategy the Congress president can consider in other poll-going states. The Congress reportedly lost seven seats in Gujarat by less than 1,000 votes because of the presence of the Nationalist Congress Party and the BSP. So, forging alliances at various levels should be a priority.
The Amit Shah School of Election Management Endures’ in The Economic Times
(Photo: The Economic Times screengrab)

Hindustan Times

In an article called ‘Gujarat Results: Modi's Economic Policies Have Not Hurt the BJP in the State’ in Hindustan Times, Niranjan Rajadhyaksha writes that the BJP has managed to remain unaffected by public anger after economic decisions like the GST and demonetisation.

It tells us a lot about the political responsiveness of the BJP that it moved quickly to assuage the pain through changes in GST rates as a well as reporting requirements... Modi took political risks by pushing through policies that should eventually help bring informal enterprises into the tax net, and the Gujarat results suggest that it has not hurt it politically despite the obvious economic pain in the short run, especially if the ongoing economic recovery gains momentum. 
Gujarat Results: Modi’s Economic Policies Have Not Hurt the BJP in the State’ in Hindustan Times

In another article for the publication, Barkha Dutt writes that what the Gujarat results show us is that Modi’s personality politics and extensive campaigning made a huge impact. The “Pappu joke is done and over,” she writes.

The biggest shift from previous elections since 2014 is that Gandhi was no longer singled out as the butt of the jokes. There were as many mock-ups and memes of BJP leaders as there were those of the Congress. Though as many epitaphs have been written for Rahul Gandhi as have editorials on his ‘evolution’ - even his worst detractors would concede that the new Congress President has crossed the Rubicon in politics. 
6 takeaways from the Modi-Rahul battle in Hindustan Times

Also Read: Gujarat Effect: Local Issues, Not GST Woes, to Drive K’taka Polls

In another article in the publication, titled ‘BJP Wins Gujarat, Rahul Sheds Loser Tag’, TK Arun writes that while the 2019 polls are no longer a “foregone conclusion”, the Congress still has a huge task ahead of it:

The Congress probably lost more backward caste votes than the Patidar votes it gained from its promise to create a quota for this socially and economically dominant caste. It would be a big mistake for the Congress to start thinking that the new party president has suddenly started oozing charisma. What he has gained is a certain degree of credibility.
BJP Wins Gujarat, Rahul Sheds Loser Tag’ in The Economic Times

Also Read: Next CM of Himachal Pradesh: Dhumal Lost, But What Now for BJP?

The Hindu

The Hindu’s editorial piece on 19 December, titled ‘Win Without the Shine: On BJP's Win in Gujarat and Himachal’, says that the saffron party’s victory is a bittersweet one:

If Gujarat was the launch pad for the BJP’s national-level ambitions, it now seems to have held out a ray of hope for a Congress desperately looking to revive its political fortunes. Not having won in the State since 1985, the Congress put up its best showing in 32 years.
Win Without the Shine: On BJP’s Win in Gujarat and Himachal’ in The Hindu

The editorial states that it would be wrong for the BJP to get complacent after this win:

It (BJP) may well be tempted to believe that neither demonetisation nor the flawed roll-out of the GST regime has dented its support among traders and the middle class. But the heart-stopper in Gujarat has given enough reason for it to rethink, do a reality check and reconnect with the remoter parts of India.

In another article of the publication, titled ‘How Gujarat was Won’, Sanjay Kumar, the Director of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, writes that surveys conducted by the CSDS revealed that voters in Gujarat decided whom to vote for around the end of campaigning, and PM Modi’s extensive rallying might have something to do with it.

The poll reveals that over two in every five voters (43 percent) took a final call on who they would vote for in the last two weeks of campaigning – and more than half of them (53 percent) said they voted for the BJP while only about 38 percent went with the Congress. In fact, a majority of these late deciders are those who decided at the last minute, either on the day of voting or a day or two before it. 
How Gujarat was Won’ in The Hindu

The Indian Express

In ‘The Road from Gujarat’ in The Indian Express, Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes that rural discontent against the BJP did not hurt the party’s chances.

There was substantial rural discontent, but rural discontent alone will not be able to create a crescendo large enough to unseat the BJP. Its urban base held intact and propelled it to power. Rural discontent might be enough to create an opportunity for the opposition in states like Madhya Pradesh. But nationally, if the Congress is to compete, it will have to create an insurgent narrative around both urban and rural discontent. If the BJP holds onto urban India, it can muster enough of rural India to push it over the line. In Gujarat, urban India seems to have solidly remained behind the BJP.
The Road from Gujarat’ in The Indian Express

He also says that the Congress needs to regain its credibility, which has been lost due to recent corruption scandals, if it hopes to win again.

Also Read: Gujarat Polls Are Over, But Congress’ Hopes for ‘Navsarjan’ Remain