Today is a historic day for Indian democracy. I sincerely thank the people of Gujarat for reposing their faith, yet again, in the BJP. I also heartily congratulate the state unit of the party, and, in particular, Gujarat’s dynamic and highly popular Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi for scoring a resounding victory.
State assembly elections are quite frequent in our country, but rarely does the people’s verdict in a particular state become a ‘Turning Point’ for national politics. The BJP’s spectacular victory in Gujarat today is indeed a turning point because it signals the BJP’s comeback as the frontrunner in the next parliamentary elections.
In my very first press conference after the May 2004 Lok Sabha elections, in which the BJP-led NDA suffered an unexpected defeat, I had said that my party would bounce back. I am confident that the BJP’s victory in Gujarat, and our certain victory in Himachal Pradesh (where the results will be known on 28th December), will indeed prove that the BJP is bouncing back.
In 2002, our critics attributed the BJP’s victory in the state to Godhra-related incidents. It was, of course, not true. By winning a renewed mandate in 2007, my party has conclusively shown that the people of Gujarat have voted for good governance, development and a leadership that delivers.
I want to emphasise here that there was not a single communal riot in Gujarat in the last five years; not a single hour of curfew in the last five years; and not a single incident of terrorism in the last five years. People belonging to all castes and religions in Gujarat have been the beneficiaries of Shri Modi’s single-minded focus on good governance, development, security and fight against corruption.
The Congress campaign in this election was characterized by unprecedented vilification of the BJP. In particular, it was a negative and personalized campaign against Shri Modi.
In this sense, the 2007 Gujarat election reminds me of the 1971 general election in which the entire opposition came together on an anti-Indira Gandhi platform (without, of course, the vilification element). Smt. Indira Gandhi made skillful use of this negative campaign to her own advantage by saying, “The Opposition says, ‘Indira Hatao’. I say ‘Garibi Hatao’.” This time the Congress and all the other self-styled secular parties were saying, “Modi Hatao”. There is, however, a crucial difference between 1971 and 2007. Smt. Gandhi did very little to implement her ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan. In contrast, Shri Modi has won not on the basis of promises made but on the basis of promises fulfilled.
The BJP’s victory in Gujarat has highlighted six important lessons for the polity as a whole:
1: Shri Modi has disproved the conventional ‘wisdom’ that good governance does not make good politics. Many practitioners and observers of politics believe that the voters are not swayed by the probity and integrity of leadership, clean and transparent administration, and a sincere attempt to break away from old ways of thinking and acting in government. Shri Modi has proved that the people enthusiastically support a leader who delivers with this refreshingly new approach to politics. Thus, it was not the anti-incumbency factor that was at play in Gujarat; it was the pro-incumbency wave.
2: Shri Modi has disproved that elections cannot be won on a development plank. Even critics of the BJP have had to admit that Gujarat made impressive strides in the past five years in both economic and social development, even emerging as No. 1 on many counts.
If massive investments in infrastructure development, mega-industrial projects, urban and rural development, trebling of agricultural income (from Rs. 9,000 crore to Rs. 34,000 crore) in five years, and focus on E-Governance (Gujarat is one of the best E-governed states in the country) told one part of the Gujarat story, the other part was told by the trend-setting Jyotigram Yojana (which brought 24x7 three-phase power to all the 18,000 villages in the state), Sujalam Suphalam scheme (drinking water provided to 5,000 villages and making the water-scarce state tanker-free), Chiranjeevi Yojana (which brought infant and maternal mortality rates down), Beti Bachao Andolan (which improved Gujarat’s sex ratio from 802: 1000 to 870:1000 in just six years), Vanabandhu Kalyan Yojana (which benefited 6,000 tribal villages) and Sagarkhedu Yojana (a welfare scheme for fishermen in 3,000 villages along what is the longest coastline in the country).
3: The BJP in Gujarat has disproved that elections can be won only by appealing to people’s caste and community sentiments. We have demonstrated that divisive and cynical formulas of yesteryears such as KHAM, M-Y, etc can be defeated on the basis of a positive and socially unifying agenda.
4: Fourthly, unlike in CPI(M)-ruled West Bengal, the BJP in Gujarat has proved that a renewed mandate can be won without terrorizing and obstructing voters sympathetic to opposition parties, without ‘scientific rigging’ and without all the other electoral malpractices. In this context, I congratulate the Election Commission for their good job.
5: The BJP’s victory in Gujarat has shown that the people in the state have disapproved of political defections and also inner-party dissent amounting to indiscipline and defection.
6: Sixthly, and this is most important, the BJP’s victory is a victory against politics of vilification, negativism and arrogance. I cannot think of any other leader in Indian politics in the past sixty years who was as viciously, consistently and persistently maligned as Shri Modi has been since 2002. The ‘maut ke saudagar’ slur is only the most recent addition to the ammunition of lies used by our opponents to slander the BJP and Shri Modi, both nationally and internationally. The people of Gujarat have given a fitting reply to the practitioners of this kind of toxic politics. I appeal to the leadership of the Congress and other parties to abjure, at least from now onwards, this brand of politics. I hope they will introspect and learn the right lessons from their defeat in Gujarat.