By Anirban Choudhury
Even as the dust kicked up by the political battle in Gujarat gradually settles down, those on the periphery with a ringside view, including yours truly, cannot help but feel gratified with the performance put up by the dramatis persoe. While the idealists might have felt outraged at the low the political parties and their leaders have stooped to win over the electorate by calling each other mes and indulging in mudslinging, nonetheless the electoral battle was no less captivating as well complete with theatrics, perhaps capped by none other Prime Minister rendra Modi himself standing on the footboard of a seaplane and waving at his supporters. And at the end of all these as the winner filly takes it all, one cannot help but make some quick observations. No doubt, there will be political experts decoding the outcome of Gujarat election in a more technical matter, its impact on Modi Inc vis-à-vis 2019 Lok Sabha polls or on Rahul Gandhi as president of Congress, etc. Nevertheless the entire election process did throw up some interesting facets that can’t be missed by any discerning citizen of this country.
Post the election process as the scene now moves to government formation, the biggest casualty seems to have been the credibility of intellectual discourse in the country. Ever since the country’s Independence, the mainstream intellectual voice had always been anti-establishmentarian, critical of the government’s policies in a very objective manner, even in the darkest days of Emergency, which made many an ordiry soul in the country look up to them as source of enlightenment. However, that was so only till 2014. Since May that year, the rrative seems to have lost its veneer of objectivity and tended to be biased. So much so that now criticisms of the establishment in semir halls or TV studios tend to be more ideologically-driven, bereft of objectivity or fact-based. Hence, an apparent disconnect is manifest now more than ever before between the intellectual discourse and opinions at the grassroots. So, while TV studios were bristling with “experts” predicting during the election campaigns how the ruling BJP would face its acid test, if not dumped outright by voters, the electorate filly had the last laugh.
Perhaps influenced by “expert opinions” of the intellectual community and looking through the prism of ideology, the mass media too made ordiry citizens in other parts of the country believe that the saffron juggerut with Modi at the helm may be filly halted by Gujarati voters. However, the electorate ensured that the BJP makes it to the saddle for the sixth time in a row comfortably, albeit with much lesser impressive performance. By too much harping on “young Turks” Jignesh Mevani, Alpesh Thakor and Hardik Patil and overestimating their ability to deliver, the media perhaps missed the larger plot. And with eggs on their faces, most media, particularly the broadcast, were seen later on election result day claiming – rather very pathetically – how they got their exit polls almost right in a bid to somewhat salvage their reputation.
The fact is most media did not get it right. There were lengthy editorials on how the triumvirate of Jignesh, Alpesh and Hardik was all set to take the wind out of BJP’s sails as the three represented the country’s youth frustrated with the saffron party’s idea of India. In the end, however, all such observations were proved wrong as the voters outsmarted their predictions.
This is not about celebrating a particular party’s win or mourn another’s loss. It’s about credibility of institutions and of individuals who seem to have lost their way in the maze of ideologies. With ideology acting as blinkers, they apparently missed the bigger picture of what was coming. And in their intellectual arrogance, some had even gone overboard in doubting the intelligence of the common man and hence got their entire plot wrong. Fact is, the common man is smarter than what most experts imagine and knows what suits him best. But, by questioning the verdict, as some had even suggested now, they are not only undermining the voters’ intelligence but also failing to read into their minds. And all these have led put a question mark on the credibility of many “experts”.
Basically, any election is ultimately about winning popular ballots, and BJP seems to have got its arithmetic right, while the losers got it wrong. That’s it. Crying sour grapes – blaming “faulty” electronic voting machines – obviously ain’t the proper way for the Opposition parties to endear themselves to the masses. They need to sit down, do some real soul-searching and, if required, go back go to their drawing boards to come out with a totally new roadmap. Trying to shift goalposts or bending rules is not going to help their cause in any way as it is not going to impress the electorate.
Further, claiming “moral victory” by having rrowed down the margin of victory too won’t help matters, other than soothing their bloated ego and hurt pride. Rather, it has the potential of breeding in complacency, thereby affecting their performance in the long run. A victory is a victory is a victory, while a loss is a loss is a loss. Also, let’s admit, there’s nothing honourable in defeat.
Actually, behind any team’s winning performance in any sphere of activity lies, among other things, hours of hard work, application of a sound mind, reading rival’s mind to come up with a proper counter game plan, skill, determition and conviction on its members. While Modi Inc seems to have done its homework properly to prove all its skeptics wrong, the losers surely didn’t measure up to the winner in any of these indices. The latter seemingly banked too much on anti-incumbency factor and the young Turks to deliver. But then, what can be expected with a part-time leader leading the opposition rank when the rival camp is led by a thorough-bred professiol tanned in dust and heat and working 24x7.