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It's Not Over Till It's Over: 8 Lessons for Congress in BJP's Chhattisgarh Win

No politician should forget the superiority of their mai-baap, that is, the electorate.

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Well, the results are here. And all of us crystal ball gazers were wrong. Only the voters of Chhattisgarh and Amit Shah were right.

54 to 35 was supposed to have been in favour of the Congress. The simple but decisive voters of Chhattisgarh, well, simply reversed the positions of that ratio.

And, therefore, an autopsy of the Congress’ resounding defeat is in order. What are the lessons learned?

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Lesson 1: There is no substitute for hard work. Slogans do not automatically convert into successful projects on the ground. Baghel’s programs and taglines were very good. What money could do, it did. But were the Congress MLAs busy at the grassroots giving their presence to the projects? No, they were not. Government babus can only do so much. Public representatives must be seen at the site, they must be heard and they must be trusted. They must not only work but also be seen working. Not just a few. All of them, without exception. The BJP's karyakrta, especially towards the end, was visible.

Lesson 2: Never pre-empt your masters. No politician should forget the superiority of their mai-baap. Chhattisgarh is not Karnataka. In politics, there is no one-size-fits-all. If your party won in Karnataka, that is not an excuse for you to ignore your constituency in Chhattisgarh. No formula, however successful somewhere else, can be force applied in an uncharted terrain. Lend thy ears to thine masters, Congressmen. Meaning your electors, are not the first family of your party. There, thou giveth thy thoughts no tongue, which is fine, because they do not vote.
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Lesson 3: First, put your house in order. Before every war, tackle the enemy within. They will attack and harm you at every possible and impossible opportunity, place, and time. The Congress rebels and aspiring rebels did everything just because things did not go their way within the party. Open challenges, sabotage, running with the hares, and hunting with the hounds. Everything. Just to massage or caress their ego. True to character, the Congress thought the rebels could be pacified with promises that lay far into the future. One thing the typical Congressman cannot do is wait. ‘Now’ is the mantra of the Congress’ inglorious failure. And we know who rush in where angels fear to tread.

Lesson 4: Never underestimate your opponent. More importantly, never get personal. Because politics is an impersonal game. Gram for gram in body weight, people trust Modi more than any Congress leader, well, more than all Congress leaders put together. Baghel versus Modi was the grossest mismatch made in hell. And Panauti rhymes more with Pappu than with Modi, doesn’t it? Never use words your voters don’t approve of. But to know that, you have to be humble. Were you?

Lesson 5: Top-heavy and base-leaky is a bad strategy. Helicopter leaders from Delhi with no contact or connect in Chhattisgarh is the case in point. Your opponents did the same, but they fielded willing candidates who were locals too. Simply because your fair-weather ally held a caste census, you cannot appropriate it for the unsuspecting Chhattisgarhia voters! Jargon does not equal slogan. Period.
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Lesson 6: Heaven hath no blessing than a woman convinced. Congressmen, when your opponent told the women of Chhattisgarh that his party in power would guarantee their dignity, rights, and safety, he was speaking from a position of demonstration. Nationwide, the trend has been that women have been the eraser of the lines that castes, communities, and class create. Things that your party and your allies seek to preserve as political tools.

Women, particularly young women, simply are more trusting of the BJP than your party. Add tribals and first-time voters to the list and you have the recipe for the Congress disaster in Chhattisgarh.

Lesson 7: The common man can tolerate you not doing things that you were supposed to do, but they also cannot tolerate you doing things you were not supposed to do. Are you aware of the rampant, troublesome, and daring corruption that your lower bureaucracy was indulging in? Transfers, driving licences, planning sanctions, public service recruitments, land leases – you name a public service and the public could name a disservice. If you were not even aware of the problem, how would you find a solution to it?

Lesson 8: It is not over till it is over. Who better to teach this to the Congress than the unassuming Chhattisgarhia! Their overconfidence did them in, them Congressmen. The final count has left the party badly bruised, punishment for speaking before their time. They did not have a demonstrated track record like Dr Raman Singh who served as the second and the longest serving Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh for 15 years from 2003 to 2018.

Congressmen think they tried. This was their election to lose, and they lost it.

(Ashok Tomar is a political commentator based out of Chhattisgarh. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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Topics:  Chhattisgarh   Bhupesh Baghel 

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