By Sushil Kutty
Perhaps the Election Commission wants to give Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi more time to dog-whistle the Gujarat electorate with election-oriented development projects, like the Tata-Airbus C-295, and bombard voters with election-winning poll-promises which may or may not be kept.
Gujarat is Narendra Modi’s home-state. Also, the laboratory where the Gujarat strongman’s plans and policies were tested and tried, and which in a capsule came to be called the ‘Gujarat Model’, a cabal of programmes and projects that has stood the test of time for nearly 27 years.
The ‘Gujarat Model’ continues to be Modi’s calling card. It won the BJP successive electoral battles in Gujarat. And elements of the model have become endemic to the India story scripted since May 2014 by the Gujarat Chief Minister who became India’s Prime Minister!
Modi is like the Gujarati seafarer who takes a bit of Gujarat to wherever he sets sail for. But, now, after nearly 27 years of the ‘Gujarat Model’, there are newer and younger models walking the modelling ramp and the ‘Gujarat Model’ faces the risk of getting crowded out.
So much so, people are talking of the ‘Clash of Models’ like the ‘Clash of Civilisations’. And, just so that it sinks in, this has to do with the charmed unassailability of the ‘Gujarat Model’, which is being challenged by ‘aakrantas’ led by the deliciously duplicitous Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘Delhi Model’.
The AAP convener has given charge of ‘Operation Demolish Gujarat Model’ to young favourite Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha whose fresh looks are deception’s favourite. The BJP has ruled Gujarat for nearly three decades and the ‘Gujarat Model’ mainstay is that it neutralized anti-incumbency like there was no tomorrow.
Also, the Gujarati electorate has had no desire for greener pastures. The grass on the other side of the fence for the likes of Aakar Prakaar Patel (no relative of the Modi-hating Aakar Patel) was never greener. This time, though, somebody has quipped “But then Gujarat is different” and so, the Election Commission is taking its own sweet time declaring the election date for Gujarat.
But elections for the 182 seats will take place in November/December, it has to. The last assembly elections was in 2017 when the Congress bagged 77 seats. This time the Congress is studiously ignoring Gujarat, which is unfortunate because the ‘Gujarat Model’ is designed, and made to defeat ‘old enemy’ Congress.
The ‘Gujarat Model’ can’t fight the AAP’s ‘Delhi Model’ and there are those who consider Kejriwal’s freebies and AAP’s foray into Gujarat an absolute existential threat to the ‘Gujarat Model’. Is it that Modi will look and act his age by the time the ‘Delhi Model’ is done and dusted with the Gujarat Model?
For the first time in three decades, Gujarat will see a triangular contest with the BJP and Congress sharing electoral promiscuity with the Aam Aadmi Party, which is afflicted with the highly contagious ‘aam aadmi’ disease called ‘commonness’.
Those hit by ‘commonness’ vote to sweep elections, like in Delhi and, more recently, in Punjab. The last time there was a triangular fight in Gujarat was in 1990, when the Janata Dal, BJP, and the Congress took on aggressive positions. This time the “third man” is AAP, and in 1990 it was the ‘third man’ Janata Dal which topped the table!
So, what’s in store for the AAP, and the BJP in this three-cornered 2022 contest? Following this line of thought is fraught with frustration for the BJP, and existential for the ‘Gujarat Model’. What if the AAP does a Janata Dal on the BJP, and it is curtains for the ‘Gujarat Model’, and a setback for BJP and Modi heading for 2024?
Modi’s ‘Gujarat Model’ will also face the power of Raghav Chadha’s data politics. Chadha fancies himself a backroom strategist in the mould of Prashant Kishor, maybe better, with the fresh kill of Punjab tied to his saddle-horn. The rise and rise of Raghav Chadha is closely tied to Kejriwal and AAP’s fortunes.
After being appointed ’sah-prabhari’ for the Gujarat elections, Chadha has perfected the ‘garba’ and his clean-cut looks are a hit with Gujarat’s youth. But whether freebies will work in Gujarat is the million dollar question, when it is argued that the Gujarati has an unassailable and insurmountable allergy to the free-for-all culture!
That being said, three-cornered spells ‘three models’ and, so, along with the ‘Gujarat Model’ and the ‘Delhi Model’, there is also the Congress party’s ‘Rajasthan Model’ of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot vying for a slice of the Gujarati pizza.
The BJP’s ‘Gujarat Model’ basically caters to Hindu interests, something which Kejriwal learned late, forcing him to make the required course correction, which is why he appears more Hindu than a Modi on saffron! Also, the reason why Kejriwal wants gods Ganesha and Laxmi on rupee notes? Kejriwal, they say, is the epitome of cunningness!
Whether Arvind Kejriwal succeeds in his Hindu gamble or not is for the gods to tell, but if the Gujarati does reward AAP’s ‘jhaadu’ with a clean sweep of Gujarat, it will be because of the overarching sweep of free electricity and free water, and promise of Delhi-like schools, and Delhi-like mohalla clinics. For now the ‘Gujarat Model’ remains the absolute favourite of the Gujarati electorate. And the ’Rajasthan Model’ is there to help Gehlot retain Rajasthan in 2023. (IPA Service)