M A I N   N E W S

BJP on a high, and so is Congress
Thumping win in Gujarat buoys saffron party; Cong happy over ousting it from HP
Anita Katyal/TNS

New Delhi, December 20
With the score levelled one each, the eagerly awaited results of the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections today had both the BJP and the Congress cheering for their respective sides.

The BJP was predictably ecstatic about its emphatic win in Gujarat where the Chief Minister Narendra Modi won a third consecutive term. Lining up to congratulate the party’s poster boy, BJP leaders maintained the outcome had defied caste considerations and was a vote for development and good governance.

The Congress was equally gung-ho about its win in Himachal Pradesh where it unseated the ruling BJP government with a decisive margin. Not overtly concerned about its performance in Gujarat, since it never expected to defeat the BJP, the Congress took solace from the fact that the magnitude of Modi’s victory was not commensurate with the hype created about him. Moreover, this was a Modi victory, not a BJP win, they underlined.

While Finance Minister P Chidambaram maintained the Congress had succeeded in containing Modi as he had failed to add to his tally, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said, “Our victory in Himachal Pradesh has been convincing, but our defeat in Gujarat is not demeaning.”

Both parties admitted these elections had shown that it was important to project a credible and powerful state leader to make an impact. If it was Modi who led the BJP to victory in Gujarat, it was senior leader Virbhadra Singh’s appeal that ensured a win for the Congress in Himachal Pradesh. “We need strong state leaders, not leadership,” said a UPA minister.

While Modi is yet to be sworn in, the discussion has already moved on to his future plans as his third consecutive win has boosted his chances of being projected as BJP’s next prime ministerial candidate. There are lingering doubts within the BJP’s top echelons about Modi’s ability to lead the country because of his dictatorial style of functioning. However, his march to Delhi may prove to be unstoppable in view of the clamour from the rank and file. Modi is clearly a front runner for the PM’s post, much to the chagrin of other aspirants in the party. It is also feared that Modi’s projection could result in the unravelling of the NDA as BJP’s key ally, the Janata Dal (U) has made it clear that Modi is not acceptable to them. It could also drive away potential allies like the Trinamool Congress and the BJD as they fear that their minority support base would be eroded because of Modi’s communal taint. “Modi will be troublemaker for the BJP, not for us,” remarked Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla.

The Congress feels if Modi shifts to Delhi, it will lead to consolidation of minorities in its favour and enable it to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha election on a “communal vs secular” agenda. The party can then appeal to its partners and potential allies to strengthen its hands in order to defeat communal forces.

More immediately, the Himachal victory will prove to be a morale booster for the demoralised Congress that has been besieged by corruption charges and panned for policy paralysis. The party will be encouraged to move ahead with its reforms agenda as the national issues raised by the BJP found no resonance with the Himachal electorate. Even the corruption charges against Virbhadra Singh failed to diminish his appeal. “The results show the Congress has the ability to fight back. It cannot be underestimated,” said Birender Singh, AICC general secretary in charge of Himachal Pradesh. 





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