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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 1 New Delhi December 23, 2017 - Annual Number

Gujarat Results, Off the Cuff

Sunday 24 December 2017, by Badri Raina



However Mr Modi might flash the victory sign, in the heart of his heart he knows that he lost in Gujarat.

The steady, strenuous, and well-thought-out campaign mounted by Rahul Gandhi was a bold and unrelenting buzz in the elephant’s ear; and the buzz drew echo from far and wide in the Gujarat hinterland. Rahul Gandhi’s elegant refusal to be provoked by the mud thrown at him, and the decency of his articulations and advisements has clearly raised him to the stature of a leader who promises a new politics of manners and non-abrasive commitment. The prompt decisiveness with which he dealt an unfortune but ill-advised intervention sends ample message to this effect.

That more than eighty per cent of the rural voters preferred the Congress is testimony to the credibility of Rahul Gandhi’s policy-concerns with respect to agrarian distress; as is the fact that a substantial section of the intermediate castes and Dalits, as well as Adivasis came over to his side.

That this happened in the teeth of the overwhelming organisational strength of the RSS/BJP throughout the State speaks for the acumen with which Rahul Gandhi and his team of thinkers assessed the ground situation in Gujarat.

Mr Modi, who returned to his State, much like Coriolanus, displaying his nativity with a rather pathetic urgency of appeal, must wonder that in his very own homeground on the back of more than two decades of rule he should have to unleash such an artillery of sentiment to defeat a practically non-existent Congress in the State. This clearly bodes ill for future contests in Madya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajastahn where the objective conditions are far worse than they might have been in Gujarat.

Mr Gandhi now has a task on his hands. having established his leadership credentials among his partymen at large through an unfazed and successful struggle with inimical forces, he has to translate this new energy of hope into credible organisational structures, to put in place, through transparently democratic decisions, credible leaderships in the States, to generate strenuous research into the objective social and economic conditions and requirements in the States which are due to go to the polls soon, to engage in dialogue with local groups about ground-level perceptions of what needs to be done, and to formulate policies that can be shown to be translatable into viable and beneficial programmes on the ground without damaging the macro-economic health of the country. The challenge will be to show that great leaps of progress can be made in reaching quality education at the primary and secondary levels to every child as per the promise of the Right to Education, and free health care in the remotest parts of the mofussil. Policy-makers will need to demonstrate how these measures, far from debilitating growth, contribute to accelerating it in the long term.

Those that cannily seek to collar the Congress into a fake form of guilt about catering to marginalised and minority sections of the population, will need to be shown that if the world indeed is a family, and if all religions must be given equal respect, then a true Hindu cannot be an exclusivist but an inclusivist. That Hindutva and Hinduism are not the same is by now obvious even to the yuppy admirers of Mr Modi. The former can now especially be distinctly seen for what it is—a recipe for totalitarian majoritarianism as the politics of a dominant cultural form. It will be well worth to do hard work on this issue over the months so that those that claim proprietorship of the majority faith are justly dislodged from their self-assigned perch. If Gandhi was the greatest Hindu of our times, then it should not be so hard for the Congress to carry that message forward through word and deed, however nasty the onslaught on the Gandhi/Nehru traditions. From Ambedkar must be learnt how and wherefrom to adduce unanswerable critiques of Brahminical orthodoxy from within Hindu thought itself. That this is an agenda on which the long-term shape and health of the Republic will depend should now be obvious enough. Nor need the Congress answer the charge of “minority appeasement” by recourse to a guilt-ridden abjuration of Muslim Indians This would be both tragic and fatal. Muslims must be engaged to embrace the promise of the secular Republic as their foremost obligation like all other citizens, and to infuse with equity and justice aspects of the faith that seem at odds with modern citizenship.

The Gujarat odyssey has raised Mr Rahul Gandhi visibly to a new level of unselfconscious public confidence, and his conviction in his own sincerity and steady egalitarian purpose lends him now a force of leadedrship that communi-cates itself to his cadres. He is likely to find great goodwill from wide segments of the polity so long as his new moral stature continues to be the informing drive behind the overall conduct of his partymen and of the prospects of Congress programmes and policies.

In the Gujarat elections, thirteen seats were lost by the Congress with margins that were less than the votes polled by other Opposition parties.. This must be a pointer to the virtues of Opposition unity. Although the Congress as the largest Opposition force will have the main obligation to ensure such unity, let not the other parties think they will be best off pushing the Congress to the wall. That is a course that helps neither them nor the cause of restoring democracy to the Republic. Many sectarian and narrow considerations will have to yield to broader requirements. All Opposition forces ideally ought to work to ensure that there are one-on-one contests in the General Elections of 2019.

Gujarat Results are a revealing watershed moment. It must not be wasted for want of political will and selfless dedication to the founding principles of the Republic.

The author, who taught English literature at the University of Delhi for over four decades and is now retired, is a prominent writer and poet. A well-known commentator on politics, culture and society, he wrote the much acclaimed Dickens and the Dialectic of Growth. His book, The Underside of Things—India and the World: A Citizen’s Miscellany, 2006-2011, came out in August 2012. Thereafter he wrote two more books, Idea of India Hard to Beat: Republic Resilient and Kashmir: A Noble Tryst in Tatters.

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