26 12 2017
Gujarat Election – A learning curve for Rahul
Congress missed a great opportunity to win the Gujarat Election at a time when people were disgruntled and were looking for the credible alternative. Congress managed to put up a good fight in the BJP stronghold and almost made it. But it was Narendra Modi’s magic that saved BJP from the brink of defeat.
Congress really had lot of things to say and there was very good opportunity for Mr Rahul Gandhi to translate the discontentment that exists in India and in Gujarat in particular into winning votes for the party. There was
1. Economic Discontent due to Demonetization and GST
2. Political Discontent due to central control
3. Rural Discontent due to policies oriented towards Industrial growth
And above all, the fear of future due to government tendency to become dictatorial.
Economic Discontent: Gujarat is essentially a mercantile state. Demonetization and GST has impacted their trade very much and the confusion persisted so much so that the medium-scale and small-scale and export sectors have got affected.
Rahul Gandhi rightly so, capitalized on this discontentment. But he did not do it properly. In the minds of the people of Gujarat, Congress is a sinking ship with zero credibility and zero strategy. BJP at least has done lot of good for them. People were discontented on the implementation area and not on policies. The total negative campaigning by Rahul was seen as a desperate attempt to win elections.
When you want to fight against a proven party, you need to offer the localized solution of ease of doing business and simplification of a procedure by localization methods
Political Discontent: The Chief Minister of Gujarat came to power without the backing of the cadre. There is a discontentment among the public that Gujarat government is being run under remote control from the center. Congress could have capitalized on this discontentment by calling the state government as dummy government which has no control over policy decisions. The opportunity for attacking BJP was missed as the entire focus was on central leadership.
Rahul totally forgot it was an assembly election requiring a government that can take independent decision to suit local issues. Rahul could have projected a local leader from the cadre and projected them as the chief ministerial candidate.
Mere translation of central government policies without localization will look like policies are being imposed.
Rural discontent: There is strong a discontentment among farmers and small shop owners in rural areas as demonetization and GST affected their daily translation and in effect their business. Many shops had to shut down business. The promise of jobs for the youth did not materialize.
Rural agricultural growth during Narendra Modi’s period as a chief minister was much higher any of the regimes previous or after him. Sharp fall in agricultural growth due to poor crop and fall in cotton prices has further led to rural discontentment.
Rahul did the right thing in campaigning in rural areas with his road shows, speeches in Gujarati and addressing local issues and promise of jobs and help in improving the growth of agricultural income by devising schemes oriented to benefit the farmers.
Localization pays a dividend especially when you are campaigning in villages. The campaign gave positive results. It could have performed better if congress had developed local candidates.
Fear of Future: There is an undercurrent of fear especially after some of the bold decisions such as Demonetization and GST, that the government has taken. This has led to the belief that the government is becoming autocratic and is not concerned about middle class and lower income group.
The government is run by two individuals – Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
Congress had an opportunity to have tied all the discontentment into a simple narrative and made how they could have localized central government policy for state’s benefit, rather making the campaign a fight between two individuals – Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi.
Localization pays in state politics better than globalization