Some Lessons From Gu­jarat RS Re­sults

Both Congress and BJP come out chas­tened

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

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.

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