Democracy Saved: Takeaways From BJP’s Drubbing in Hindi Heartland
Video Producer: Anubhav Mishra
Video Editor: Varun Sharma
If I was to describe today’s very momentous elections, I think I would use two words – democracy saved. What we have seen in the last four-and-a-half years is a huge imbalance in our democracy because it had become very one sided. But today, a lot of balance has been restored and that is always good for democracy when you have equal and opposing forces.
On Saturday, I had said that it’s going to be 3-0 (in favour of Congress) in the Hindi heartland. Now, while the final votes are still being counted, I think I can claim a fair amount of vindication because it does look like Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have gone decisively for Congress and in Madhya Pradesh, too, it has maintained a lead.
Also Read : Exit Polls, Modi, Rahul and Post-Truth Newsrooms
But the leads are just numbers. There are six key takeaways that are not going to be changed by the final number count.
1. The Biggest Winner is Rahul Gandhi
I think for a long time the people and the media in this country have been saying that Rahul Gandhi has been losing election after election and that is a reality. Congress did lose a lot of elections after 2014.
But Rahul displayed a very important trait for leadership – tenacity. The ability to stand, take adversity and continue to keep moving forward. I think he has done that and the process that started with 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls has found its culmination in 2018. Even when Gujarat had happened, I had said that we have all missed “woods for the trees” because we were looking at a BJP victory.
What people were missing was that in a rural Gujarat, the Congress outperformed the BJP 2:1. Congress got a two-third majority in rural Gujarat. That trend has carried over to the Hindi heartland elections.
So, the biggest winner today is Rahul Gandhi for proving that he has the tenacity to stay in the race, to fight the odds and eventually emerge victorious.
Also Read : Watch: The Various Avatars of Rahul Gandhi 2.0
2. Congress Increased Its MLA Base
After 2014, when the BJP won in a lot of Assembly elections, its MLA base ie the number of MLAs it has in the country increased a lot. But today, the Congress has changed the delta and have gained close to 165 new MLAs. This will create a balance in the MLA base power which is the unit of democratic political strength.
3. Congress Reclaims Liberal Hinduism
There has been a lot of commentary on the so called soft Hindutva of the Congress. I have never called it the “soft Hindutva”. According to me, Congress has swung too much into what could be called “textbook secularism” which made it irreligious secularism.
What the Congress has done very successfully – and the credit for which should go to Rahul Gandhi – is that they have reclaimed the liberal Hinduism. Remember, Mahatma Gandhi ran the entire independence campaign on liberal Hinduism because Hinduism is a very liberal, inclusive religion.
I think the Congress has gone back to asserting the values of liberal Hinduism which some commentators are calling “soft Hindutva”. To me, that has been a very successful ideological course correction.
4. No Internal Rift in Congress
When the Congress changed its leadership, a clash between the “old guard” and the “young guard” was expected by many. But all the three elections in which Congress has done really well is a team work of the “old guard” and the “young guard.”
So it needs to be remarked that both – the older faction and the younger faction – have worked pretty well.
5. Props to KCR for Decisive Telangana Win
We have to give full credit to K Chandrashekhar Rao for winning Telangana in the decisive manner that he did. The key takeaway for Telangana is that he launched innovative schemes of direct income transfer for the farmers.
We have been saying that for a long time now that this is perhaps the only way to alleviate the farmer distress. KCR did that and I think it was one of the primary reasons for the rewards that he has reaped.
Also Read : How KCR Managed a Landslide Victory in Telangana
6. Modi-Shah Lost a State For The First Time
Narendra Modi entered the electoral politics in 2002. Since then, he has never lost a single election when his party was in power. Even in Punjab, it was the loss of the Akali Dal because the BJP wasn’t a major player in the state.
Today is the first election where Modi-Shah duo have lost states. That is a remarkable and significant turn in politics. Someone who has won for so long consistently has faced a defeat today. The lessons that he takes from his defeat are going to be critical.
Will he yank himself back into the Centrist mould that he had projected himself in 2014? Or is he going to swerve more to the divisive politics that he has started practising over the last couple of years. That’s a very vital point which will have an important bearing in the 2019 elections.