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An election result satisfactory to all

The 2022 Assembly election results of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have proved to be adequate if not pleasing to all the parties that fought this election – BJP, Congress and AAP. While the BJP was able to return to power in Gujarat with an even bigger majority, losing Himachal Pradesh to Congress must have hurt the Modi-Shah regime a bit. The Congress leadership and workers are also happy to finally win a state election on its own in more than four years. A solid full majority over BJP must have made the victory sweeter.

The AAP despite all its rhetoric was never going to form a government, leave alone become the principal opposition party in Gujarat. Yet, the fact that it was able to achieve a 13% vote share in Gujarat and ousted BJP in the Delhi MCD elections has made Arvind Kejriwal ecstatic. The vote share gained by AAP is enough to help it get ‘national party’ status.

The narrative after the election result that is being set by the BJP and the mainstream media is about the size of the BJP’s victory in Gujarat. In reality, all three parties have gained and lost something in these elections.

In fact, it could be argued that the greatest of the gains have been made by Congress. This is despite its big loss in Gujarat.

Rahul Gandhi started his Bharat Jodo Yatra just two months before the Assembly Elections. Elections in which all opinion polls and political analysts of mainstream media were painting a doom and gloom picture for the Congress party. The 3750 km journey that the Congress leader was undertaking was a big political risk in such a situation.

The Congress was in power in just two states and the most popular leader of the party was seen undertaking a mission for a national cause which was not exactly designed to ask for votes from the people of Gujarat or Himachal Pradesh.

The first Congress Presidential elections in more than 23 years also took place at this time. Amidst all the chaos of electing a new President and planning for the Bharat Jodo Yatra, the Congress war room was also preparing for the assembly elections. This made their job doubly difficult. Yet they managed to wrest Himachal Pradesh, a vital hill state with a proportion of Hindus in the country. This was a welcome victory for the party and will surely boost the morale of the party for future elections in the coming year.

Congress on the other hand should be worried about its performance in Gujarat. The BJP not only came back to power with a thumping majority, but a clear third alternative is also arriving in Aam Aadmi Party. If Congress does not gets its act together and brings in more active and inspiring leadership in the state, it risks losing its main opposition party status to AAP.
Though the BJP lost Himachal Pradesh to Congress, any kind of loss in Gujarat would have put a massive dent in the credibility of PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. The narrative then would have been that the two Gujaratis controlling India are not getting support in their own home state. No doubt that would have been highly embarrassing.

The PM too had this in mind and left no stone unturned in election campaigning despite media houses predicting a landslide win for BJP. Modi even warned his party workers about silent campaigning by the Congress, revealing his anxiety about the elections.

In the end, he addressed more than 31 rallies and led 3 road shows all across Gujarat, taking time out of his busy schedule as PM. More than happiness the election result would have given a sigh of relief to Modi as Gujarat has been the straw that he can hang on to.

Despite the brute majority in their home state, Modi-Shah must be more worried about 2023 as some really tough state elections are awaiting. Karnataka is looking dicey. Congress has mounted a vicious campaign against the Bommai government on the issue of corruption. The Congress also looks like it will retain Chhattisgarh in next year’s election.

Moreover, most of the states going to poll next year will see mostly bipolar contests between BJP and Congress and there will be no Aam Aadmi Party to cut Congress’ votes to benefit BJP. The election results of next year will set the tone for the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

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