Wednesday, Dec 25, 2002
Front Page |
Southern States |
Other States |
Advts: Classifieds | Employment | Obituary |
Leader Page Articles
By Dipankar Gupta
DID THE recent elections really demonstrate a Hindutva wave in Gujarat? It is true that the final tally of results showed a very definitive win for the BJP. It won 126 seats while the Congress secured only 51. Narendra Modi and the BJP managed to win more than double the seats the Congress did. But if we take a close look at the voting percentages we realise we may have been victims of an optical illusion. The 2002 Gujarat elections were not really much of a saffron wave after all.
In as many as 36 constituencies the contests went neck to neck. The result could have gone either way. In some cases, as in Talala, the BJP won by 0.5 per cent. In Dholka the BJP won 48.8 per cent of the votes while the Congress bagged 48.1 per cent. In a few other cases, such as in Sarsa and Mandal, the BJP won by a little less than one per cent. In over 28 other constituencies the BJP's victory margin was less than three per cent. With a bit of luck these seats could have easily gone the Congress way, and the victory margin between the BJP and the Congress would have been a handful of seats and no more.
In some of the areas where the BJP beat the Congress by a wide margin it is interesting to note that had the Janata Dal or the NCP formed an alliance with the Congress, the result would have been quite different. In Lathi the BJP won 45.6 per cent of the votes to the Congress' 36.6 per cent. Surely a definitive victory! But if one were to factor in the detail that the NCP won 11.19 per cent of the votes, the BJP victory is no longer that impressive.
Similarly in Gondal, the BJP gathered 42.9 per cent of the votes while the Congress came a poor third with only 16.8 per cent. The spoilers here were the NCP and the SAP who together managed approximately 34 per cent of the votes. In fact, in Jhagadia it was the JD (U) which won as it had captured as much as 42.8 per cent of the votes to the BJP's 21.2 per cent and the Congress' 28.3 per cent.
If in Jodiya the NCP had partnered the Congress then the 2.4 per cent of the votes it won could have been added to the Congress tally of 44.1 per cent and they might just have pipped the BJP at the post. In Kalawada and Olpad the Congress would have certainly won had the NCP not taken away 5.4 per cent and 7.7 per cent of the votes respectively. This is also true of Mangool, Matar, Morvi and Wankaner.
In all these cases the few votes snatched by the NCP made all the difference between defeat and victory for the Congress. This trend was most sensational in Sarsa where the BJP won by a wafer thin margin of 1.4 per cent. Had the votes of the NCP gone with the Congress the BJP would have lost by about 22 per cent.
In elections the margin between victory and defeat does not really matter from one point of view. Even a single vote difference unambiguously makes for a victory. Yet when election analyses are made it is unwise to limit oneself to the number of seats won and not pay attention to the votes polled. Further, this election in Gujarat was not an ordinary election.
Anyone who has been to Gujarat post-Godhra will testify that the BJP put in everything to make it a contest between Hindutva and the rest. In many ways this was like a referendum, and if it was so then less than half the people of Gujarat voted saffron.
Some elections need to be studied as special cases because of the conditions in which they take place and because of the issues involved. Mr. Modi very clearly wanted to capitalise on the riot factor to win this election. This is why he advanced the poll date, and was deeply miffed when James D. Lyngdoh was determined to spoil his well-laid plans. Regardless of what the BJP leaders might have said, it was Godhra that was to be the pivotal feature of the Hindutva campaign. Yet in Godhra the BJP was able to increase its lead over the 1999 elections by a mere 0.6 per cent. What a waste of a riot! In Gandhinagar, the BJP actually lost to the Congress and the latter in fact increased its tally to 51.6 per cent from the 49.6 per cent it won in 1999. In places such as Deesa, Deodar, Dhanera, Dhari, Dhrangada, Jamjodhpur, Kalawada, Lathi, Mahuva (and the list can go on), the BJP actually polled fewer votes than it did in 1999.
Though the BJP won some of these seats, comparatively speaking, there was a negative wave in terms of voting percentages in these constituencies. In Dharampur and Songadh, the BJP was practically routed. In some areas such as Surat, the voting pattern was quite uneven. In Surat city west, the Congress met with a humiliating defeat while it did rather well in the other sectors of Surat.
When analysing the election results most commentators have concluded that there was a BJP wave while they also accept that Mr. Modi was trying his arm at setting up the conditions for a second republic. They are certainly correct about the intentions of the BJP and Mr. Modi, but they have not paid enough attention to the plebiscite character of this election. Less than half the State's people went with the BJP in spite of the hate campaign generated by the riots. So, had it been a pure referendum on Hindutva the BJP would have lost though narrowly. The BJP's allies in the NDA fielded a number of candidates but did quite miserably as they were neither fish nor fowl in terms of the current debate on Hindutva. For example, the Samata Party, headed by George Fernandes, put up as many as 25 candidates but failed to win a single seat.
Nor can it be said that where there was a large voter turnout there was a high degree of Hindu passion. In both Jamjodhpur and Wankaner over 70 per cent voted and yet in both these constituencies the BJP won narrowly. In Jamjodhpur the BJP won by less than three per cent, and in Wankaner the BJP might have lost had the NCP not captured over 18 per cent of the votes.
It must also be borne in mind that there were many who voted for the BJP not because they welcomed the Hindutva plank but because they were seriously disturbed by the prospect of terrorism overruling the country.
Even so, a little more than 49 per cent voted for the BJP and over five per cent voted for Independents alone. This hardly fits the Hindutva wave thesis. Had this election been properly conducted as a referendum, which indeed was the intention of the BJP, the saffron wave certainly did not live up to its billing.
A close study of the election results also shows that riots are not very dependable allies. Undoubtedly, the extra purchase the BJP got post-Godhra certainly went in its favour, but it was still very chancy in a large number of constituencies, as the facts above demonstrate. The BJP also got a spirited boost from the fact that it won about 33 of the reserved seats in this election. In Chotta Udaipur, where a large number of tribals live, the BJP won 56.6 per cent of the votes and the Congress only 28.7 per cent. It was because the BJP managed to gain these votes from rather unsuspected quarters that it made a better than a decent showing in Gujarat. But as for a saffron wave, surely not! Therefore, can the Gujarat strategy of first riot and then election be recommended as a sure-shot recipe? Not really!
The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | Home |
Copyright © 2002, The
Hindu. Republication or redissemination of the contents of
this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of