BJP’s Gujarat Logic: Jab Panic Ho Toh Pakistani Kaho


BJP’s Gujarat Logic: Jab Panic Ho Toh Pakistani Kaho

Illustration: Akshita Monga/Arré

The BJP is worried. As Gujarat began the polling process this past week, the party has found new and innovative ways to stir things up. Over the weekend, the Prime Minister dropped some extremely (non)-verifiable statements, calling everyone from our mothers to the bhajiwaala on the street a Pakistani who wants to meddle with the Gujarat elections. He called Manmohan Singh a traitor for not employing surgical strikes post-26/11, alleged that Congress leadership met with Pakistani envoys (actually former diplomats) and discussed the elections with them, ending with the suggestion that Pakistan wants Congress’ Ahmed Patel as Gujarat CM.

Well done, BJP. This is exactly the sort of thing one can expect from a “nationalist” party where the worst possible slur is the term “Pakistani”. And we all know what that is code for.

Meanwhile it took a spokesperson from the Pakistan foreign ministry to retort that “India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debate and win victories on own strength rather than fabricated conspiracies, which are utterly baseless and irresponsible.” This sort of public rapping would be funny if it wasn’t aimed at the ruling party, which has either started believing in fake WhatsApp forwards, or is rattled by the projected upswing of Congress support in its stomping grounds, where it is battling anti-incumbency after 20 years. The BJP peddling conspiracy theories more random than a meth addict shows that they’re willing to try any — pardon my Hindi — “neech” (ie bad/low) tactics.

Worrying that this tide will turn, is exhibiting a chink in the party’s armour.

For the BJP, the biggest reason for worry isn’t the anti-incumbency but the Holy Trinity that has been assembled: Hardik Patel for the Patel vote, Jignesh Mewani for the Dalit vote, and the Congress’ own Alpesh Thakor for the OBC vote. The three young turks are apparently drawing larger crowds than Modiji, with especially Hardik using innovative techniques in speeches, like asking the huge crowds to call their relatives and vote against the BJP. His rally in BJP stronghold Surat last week saw a near 50,000-strong crowd, a testament that his youthful rage can challenge the BJP’s jibes, at least on stage.

Yet, the BJP’s strategy of clawing like a cornered animal is laughably odd, for the BJP has as much of a chance of losing the Gujarat elections as Rahul Gandhi had of losing the Congress Presidential elections. The only poll which might indicate some worry for the 22-year-old incumbency is the ABP-CSDS-Lokniti poll, and that too was giving both BJP and Congress a 43 per cent equal vote share. Even NDTV — perceived to be anti-BJP — recently concluded that though the enthusiasm in pure numbers might be waning for the PM from the highs of 2012 and 2014, but the heart of Gujarat still beats for its prodigal son.

The BJP is yet to lose an election which they have turned into a referendum on Modi (Uttar Pradesh being a prime example), local issues be damned. It is an indicator that the charisma of the Prime Minister remains undefeated. But worrying that this tide will turn, is exhibiting a chink in the party’s armour.

I spent four days in Gujarat last week, going from Vadodara to Rajkot, with pit stops by some villages en route. Everywhere, support for the PM reigned supreme. From truck drivers to young people on the street, we met people who blamed everyone and everything — from Nehru to Jaitley to alt-facts like “BJP doesn’t have a majority in the Lok Sabha” — but not one finger was raised over the Prime Minister. Not for the disastrous implementation of demonetisation and GST.

Of course, I spent a lot of time in urbanised pro-Modi areas, and of course our sample size is hardly indicative of a large trend, and really, who can predict these things… But if there was a serious danger to the BJP in Gujarat, the world would probably know. In that state, it’s nothing short of a tectonic shift or the melting of the polar ice caps or something.

The BJP’s Gujarat win is all but a foregone conclusion. The question they should be asking is, whether the rest of the country will follow suit in 2019?