If there were some levels of arithmetic involved in the recent two assembly elections – in Himachal Pradesh and in Gujarat – they did not matter. In the end the mandate was what the people wanted: Congress back in the hilly state, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) further ensconced in the western state.
The fact of the matter is that while in Gujarat the Narendra Modi factor still holds sway, and to a huge extent – that was evident in the party winning an all-time best of 156 out of 182 seats – the Congress was a more of the usual anti-incumbency wave that always is the trait of Himachalis. There was no arithmetic in any of this, and for the Congress, there was hardly a face either. And, surely, there was no current issue involved.
The interesting part about Gujarat was that neither the price rise, nor the slowdown of the economy, or the Morbi bridge disaster or even the disastrous state of business, as Surat and other regions of the state have witnessed, mattered in the end. The minds of the people were made up, and nothing cut into their thought process. This level of polarisation has little meaning, except that faith has proved to be, again, a very strange emotion.
Himachal is a small state with a small mandate, but also gave the Congress its third state in the country – after Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and this was the first victory for the party under its new president Mallikarjun Kharge. Whether this means anything deeper only time can tell, though.
For Congress, though, Gujarat was a disaster, they have notched up the lowest number and it will be a long fight back to respectability. There was also the factor of Arvind Kjeriwal and his Aam Admi Party (AAP) eating into Congress votes. The AAP has acted in the most horrible manner. AAP has not been able to make any dent in the Gujarat mindset – nearly 70% of their candidates losing their deposits – but its presence helped the BJP notch up a bigger win. One has to look deeper into the AAP’s designs in the future.
Overall, it seems elections die for the next year will, again, NOT be fought on issues. That, probably, is not a good sign for Indian policy as a whole.