Some Lessons From Gujarat RS Results
Both Congress and BJP come out chastened
One would think that it was not a Rajya Sabha election, the stuff that Upper House seats are made of, but a presidential style war. And yet there it was: Congressman Ahmed Patel contesting the Gujarat seat with the BJP’s Balwant Singh Rajput. One can be forgiven for not really recognising Rajput’s name. But that was exactly the point: pitting ‘ VIP Congress’ Patel, not political advisor to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, but her political secretary against just any other name — and winning. What was a pocket borough walkover for Patel, ended up being a Usain Bolt-Justin Gatlin spectator sport that the nation forced itself to watch because so much was at stake.
Why so much was at stake, of course, has to do with BJP president Amit Shah’s decision to make practice of that adage, ‘The personal is political’. Stopping Patel’s reentry into Rajya Sabha was going to be a sub-plot in the ‘Congress-Mukht Bharat’ narrative. Which, frankly, boils down to ridding national politics, for starters, of dynastic rule. But technicalities have always been the Congress’ strong point, a genuine political virtue that comes with being the Grand Old Party of India, and something that the Grand New Party can, and will, learn from. Two disqualifications, and no matter how much the BJP leadership huffed and puffed at the door of the Election Commission, Patel saved face.
It is not so much important as to what we learnt from this Gujarati version of the Gunfight at OK Corall. It is important to know what the two gunslingers learnt. For the BJP, the defeat is a reminder that smugness can make the ball of wool tightly knit unravel and create knots that a party, even in such a position in both Houses and the lay of the land, cannot afford to ignore. For the Congress, the lesson is trickier. After its rightful celebration, the truth must sink in that even pocket boroughs are liable to be picked. That means not taking ‘legacy’ for granted. If this contest was a mountain made out of a molehill, then it is a molehill worth observing for the lessons it imparts. Assembly elections in Gujarat are coming.