With Gujarat poll outcome set to be declared on Monday, India is waiting with a bated breath. So much is riding on the result. A result in favour or against the BJP will determine the politics of the country until the next general election. However, if the exit polls are anything to go by, the BJP looks set to win the election not only in Gujarat but also in Himachal Pradesh. And should that happen, it will make the Prime Minister Narendra Modi further invincible. And it will become more unlikely that the BJP will lose the 2019 national election. However, considering that the bitter Gujarat campaign also saw Congress regain some verve and its leader Rahul Gandhi finally find his bearings, there is a chance that the party might breathe down the neck of the BJP in the final tally. And should that happen, it will dramatically alter the political scenario in the run up to 2019 polls. The PM Modi will find it hard to live down a neck and neck verdict let alone the defeat in Gujarat.
Gujarat election campaign will go down as one of the most bitterest in years. Being the Prime Minister of the country did not restrain Modi from launching an all out assault on Congress. In fact, he brought into play all his favourite polarizing themes like Muslims and Pakistan. He said Pakistan was interfering in Gujarat polls and was seeking to make Congress leader Ahmad Patel, the Chief Minister of the state, as if his being a Muslim was sufficient enough a disqualification for the post.
On the other hand, Gandhi made little effort to flaunt his party’s putative secular credentials. He fought the BJP on the latter’s terms. He pandered to rather than confronted the Hindutva narrative by making a beeline to the temples. He kept a safe distance from Muslims, didn’t directly appeal to them for the votes.
If anything it shows the dangerous mainstreaming of the Hindutva ideology in the country. So much so that the hacking and burning of a hapless Muslim labourer in Rajasthan evoked little public sympathy in the country. It also resonated little with the media and the political parties. And unimaginably enough, Rahul Gandhi, the leader of an avowed secular party chose not to raise the issue of the murder of the labourer. So, in a sense, no matter what the verdict, it will change little for India’s minorities, particularly Muslims. It will be a long time before India gets rid of the unquenchable hate that currently courses through its body politic. But this reality hardly detracts from the profound significance of the outcome of Gujarat polls.