A Close Call

BJP’s narrow margin of victory in Gujarat could be a harbinger of the challenge that lies ahead for Modi


Very few things in India are fought as bitterly as elections. Every trick in the book is par for course and political parties seldom miss a chance to get that additional vote. The assembly election in Gujarat has been symptomatic of that and the BJP, after a 22-year run, had its back to the wall. The trader community had seen red after the implementation of the Goods & Services Tax and a sustained caste-led campaign by the opposition had threatened to upset the BJP’s applecart. It called for all of prime minister Narendra Modi’s shrewdness and relentless campaigning to ensure that he was not embarrassed in his home state.

With a victory in Himachal Pradesh being a foregone conclusion, the effort to retain Gujarat was at its peak. Everything from development to the danger of the anti-national was uttered leaving very little room for politeness or civility. In that scenario, a close finish was expected and the scriptwriters were not disappointed. Though its vote share did go up, the BJP did lose some ground in Gujarat raising serious questions on the efficacy of the incumbent government in the state. That the Congress could make inroads into one of the two assembly constituencies of Modi’s own hometown Vadnagar is also an indication of a change in sentiment. Now, whether Modi will continue to pursue his tough reforms with just a year in office is a big question. With four states set to go to polls next year followed by general elections in 2019, it seems the game of thrones has just begun.