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After BJP's 'marginal' victory in Gujarat, frenemy Shiv Sena attacks the party

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 19 December 2017, 18:26 IST

After ruling Gujarat for more than two decades, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has barely managed to retain power in the state. While BJP leaders are busy celebrating the victory, the outcome has rung alarm bells for the party.

The marginal victory has prompted sharp political reactions from friends and foes. Among the friends is the Shiv Sena which immediately pounced on the opportunity to give an earful to BJP on how to survive in politics and maintain the position achieved.

Shiv Sena Executive President Uddhav Thackeray, in an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamna has come down heavily on BJP leadership for its autocratic manner of functioning. However, he has conveniently skipped the fact that his party had fielded 50 candidates in Gujarat, none of whom even managed to save the deposit.

Lamenting about the BJP leadership in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular, Thackeray said – “Finally, BJP had to play an emotional card of pride of Gujarat and Aapno Manas (Our Man). Because of this, voters in 99 constituencies stood behind the party. But at the same time, it should be noted that voters in 80 constituencies supported Rahul Gandhi and Hardik Patel.”

Though BJP has won Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, Congress has not lost. On the contrary, it has consolidated its position in the PM's home state.

“The outcome has defeated the Congress Free India mission and delivered a tight slap to the Lion. This is the final call for those who believe in dictatorship and autocratic functioning. So-called Gujarat model has been shaken, we hope that it doesn’t collapse in 2019,” Thackeray said.

Though, as expected, BJP has won Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections. But people are discussing Rahul Gandhi's performance. He has grown as a political leader. BJP leaders had been claiming to win more than 150 seats, but they had to try tooth and nail to even to reach 100. These elections have established Rahul Gandhi as a formidable leader who has posed a major challenge for BJP, the editorial goes on to say.

The Gujarat election results are an indication of what is in the offing for BJP in the run-up to the 2019 General Elections.

“In our opinion, this is the warning bell for the BJP. But the leaders seem to have ignored it and are celebrating the victory which actually is not as great as it is being projected to be. They are not ready to learn any lesson and mend their ways. BJP has surged in places like Surat which are dominated by businessmen community. As against the general perception, they voted in favour of BJP despite the demonetisation and GST fiasco. Now BJP leaders will blow trumpets to claim that demonetisation and GST did not impact the businessmen. But the fact remains that they were not the core issues in the campaign. Instead of showing the development achieved in Gujarat, Modi and BJP relied on emotional campaigning based on Pride of Gujarat. When they realised that public sentiment is going against them, BJP leaders brought Pakistan and other communal issues in the campaign,” the editorial says.

BJP leaders are not ready to come to the terms that Rahul Gandhi has arrived, and how!

“Everyone knew that BJP will win Gujarat Elections. It was obvious after being in power for 22 years. The party brought in chief ministers of 14 states and entire central cabinet for campaigning, not to forget the use of massive money power. But at the same time, Congress has emerged as the major opposition party. I hope it will be a strong alternative to BJP in near future. Rahul Gandhi has given a new ray of hope. We don’t want to defeat BJP, but to reform it. If the current policies and line of action to kill allies continues, 2019 General Elections would prove to be a debacle for BJP,” Rajya Sabha MP and Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said.

However, he didn’t comment on the fact that all the 50 candidates fielded by Shiv Sena in Gujarat lost their deposits.

While Gujarat results are being seen as a warning bell for the BJP since Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh andChhattisgarh are going for Assembly elections soon, party unit in Maharashtra is relatively relaxed as it has two more years to face elections.

Though, the issues in rural part of Gujarat are similar to those of Maharashtra, state leadership feels that it won’t matter much.

“After being in power from 22 years, anti-incumbency has to a major issue. And we suffered it in Gujarat. Now that we have retained power, leadership will initiate course correction. As far as Maharashtra is concerned, the situation is not at all alarming. We have put up an excellent show in recently conducted civic elections across the state. Given the support we got, it would be improper to say that the discontent is brewing against us in rural parts of the state,” said a senior party functionary who did not wish to be named.

First published: 19 December 2017, 18:26 IST