Rupani Retained as CM, But How Long Will He Remain at the Helm?

Post Gujarat victory, the Sangh is looking forward to a strong chief minister ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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Opinion
4 min read
Post Gujarat victory, the Sangh is looking forward to a strong chief minister ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
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Though the BJP has won Gujarat for the sixth successive time and has secured 50 percent of the votes polled, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is a tad disappointed with the results. “Winning so many times in a row is an extremely creditable performance, but the BJP this time lost a part of hitherto committed votes of the party,” say RSS sources.

The reference is to the Patel community, which has stood by the party since it was propelled to power in the mid-1990s. In fact the Patels, with their whole-hearted support, played a significant role in making the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) what it is in Gujarat.

Thus, the RSS is viewing the situation with a wee bit of concern, albeit they realise that the Congress is “playing the game of casteism and dividing society” in order to promote its narrow interests.

BJP’s Performance in Gujarat Not a Big Feat

The Sangh feels that BJP’s performance in the state is nowhere near that of Uttar Pradesh, where polls were held earlier in 2017, and the party won a whopping 325 of the 403 seats. This was in line with the party’s performance in the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, where the BJP won 73 of the 80 seats.

In the same Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had swept Gujarat winning all 26 seats.

But compared to this, the state Assembly results a few days ago shows a climb down – the BJP won an equivalent of 14 to 15 Lok Sabha seats. In other words, the BJP lost 11 to 12 seats.

In the recent Assembly polls, the BJP won 99 seats, and this is the worst performance of the party since 1995. In that poll, the BJP had secured 121 seats, and this went up to 127 seats in the 2002 elections, and even in 2012, the party won 116 seats.

Sangh Raises Concerns About Jobs, Rural Distress

Ground reports reaching the RSS indicate that it was only the herculean efforts made by Modi himself that saved the day for the BJP. The RSS is concerned that the state leadership has not shown a high degree of energy and concentration in discharging its duties.

The Sangh is also miffed at the rural-urban divide, and the issue of joblessness, agrarian distress, and high costs of education that came up as a major poll issue in rural areas.

RSS sources say that the Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat had raised these issues in a general sense in his annual Vijayadashami, where he spoke candidly about employment, employability, sustainable livelihood, the need for decentralisation of economic production, and restraining consumption.

The RSS chief’s annual speech is an indication of the sort of direction that the national government should try to align itself with. The press had widely reported Mohan Bhagwat’s speech.

Strong Gujarat CM Needed Ahead of 2019 Polls

The RSS view is that a prerequisite for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls is that Gujarat must have a strong energetic chief minister committed to the philosophy of the Sangh.

Winning the 2019 elections is crucial for the RSS in order to carry forward its agenda. Although it stands at the apex of the Sangh Parivar, the RSS itself is a cultural organisation that does not dabble in politics.

Thus, the goal of the RSS is to create a nation based on Bharatiya consciousness. This consciousness is to be built on the Sanskriti of the country, and the prerequisite for this is that the ill effects of colonial thoughts and mindsets are gotten rid of.

Will Rupani be Replaced Soon?

Although Vijay Rupani was re-nominated as the chief minister, analysts expect that he might be replaced after sometime. In fact, the name of Smriti Irani as a possible chief minister had been doing the rounds ever since the results came out. Irani, although an outsider, speaks fluent Gujarati. She had been used to campaign for the BJP in the recent elections. But she is not RSS’ choice and therefore, her name cannot be considered seriously.

All chief ministers in BJP ruled states have a background in the RSS. Irani is, however, seen as highly energetic, and can successfully contain Hardik Patel (who gave grief to the BJP), which neither Vijay Rupani nor former Chief Minister Anandiben Patel managed to do. Incidentally, Vijay Rupani is seen as the candidate of Amit Shah, and many residents of Gujarat feel that it is the latter who has been defacto running the state.

RSS: Strong Stakeholder in BJP

The RSS has itself played a huge role in making the BJP strong in Gujarat in multiple ways. For one, it has liberally leant out its cadre, and this includes even Narendra Modi.

The Prime Minister, then the RSS karyakarta, was seconded to the BJP in 1987, when he was made one of the secretaries of the state unit of the party. In this role, Modi played a huge role in popularising the party and enabled it to capture the municipality of Ahmedabad and Rajkot for the first time ever.

The RSS, through its various affiliates, have also spread its message effectively in the tribal belts of Gujarat which is a significant part of the state. This has effectively created a strong base for the BJP in tribal Gujarat. All this has naturally made RSS a strong stakeholder in the BJP, and has led to its continuous growth in Gujarat.

(The writer is former Resident Editor of the Ahmedabad edition of the Times of India. 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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