Ashok Gehlot, the Chanakya for Congress in Gujarat

Rahul Gandhi with Ashok Gehlot

The BJP which set up Gujarat as a laboratory of Hindutva and adding the spice of development in it won the assembly elections for five times and is fighting hard for a sixth victory. In the very same Gujarat, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and his coronation as the President of Congress, party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi has also launched himself to fight in the battlefield with the weapons of caste equation and soft Hinduism.

Congress, which was not considered as an opponent, having any chance to come back in Gujarat, today, after a long time is giving an equally tough fight to the ruling BJP in the poll-bound state. With the active participation of Rahul, Congres sees a new ray of hope, which has otherwise been surviving on ventilators from past two decades in Gujarat.

The interest and the hard work that Rahul is showing has also filled the Congress workers with energy and enthusiasm in Gujarat. Though the actual reason for the boost that Rahul is getting in this political battlefield is, Congress Gujarat in charge and former Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot. Yes, Ashok Gehlot is the mastermind behind the entire campaigning in Gujarat and at least amongst the Congressmen, he is being considered as the Chanakya.

Congress is out of power in Gujarat for the last 22 years and it is for the first time in these two decades the party appears to be giving a tough fight to the BJP. Being the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, assembly elections in Gujarat are very important and the results of this election will also be paving the path and deciding the fate for the party in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The Gujarat elections are being held at a time when the Lok Sabha election are close and Rahul Gandhi, going to be crowned as the President of Congress. In such situations, Rahul has used this opportunity well to prove himself and has made Gujarat as his launch pad.

Congress has many leaders that it can count on in Gujarat like Bharat Solanki, Arjun Modwadia, and MLA Shaktisinh Gohil, but these leaders are only limited to getting their seats. In such situation, Ashok Gehlot has taken the command in his hand to guide Congress as well as Rahul Gandhi during the crucial assembly elections.

Former Chief Minister of Rajasthan and the present Congress in charge in Gujarat, Ashok Gehlot has been campaigning in the poll-bound state for quite a few months now. The roadmap prepared by the Congress in Charge to turn the atmosphere in favour of the party has become a matter of concern for the ruling BJP.

BJP has been registering its victory in Gujarat from the past five elections, playing the card of religion over caste. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was even useful in bringing  Congress more or less marginalized to this trump card. But Ashok Gehlot using the cards of BJP only to play against the party has once again got the game in the favour of the Congress by playing the cards of caste politics over religion. It means that it is the strategy of the Congress to give a befitting reply to the BJP by playing the move of caste politics over its Hindutva policy.

One of the biggest setbacks of the BJP is that it is not very good at playing the caste politics, and this could clearly be seen during the polls in Bihar. Therefore, keeping in mind the weak point of BJP and the Bihar poll pattern, Gehlot played the masterstroke of caste politics in Gujarat.

The Chanakya in Congress wrote the entire screenplay as to when and how the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is to hold a meeting with the community leaders like Alpesh Thakor, Jignesh Mevani, and Hardik Patel, who are the leaders that were born out of caste politics in Gujarat. He totally decided whom Rahul has to meet and what talks are to be held with which leader.

As a result of the political tactful moves played by Gehlot, Alpesh Thakor, the leader of the OBCs pledged his communities support to Congress. Jignesh Mevani, the leader of the Dalits also, though not officially but through backdoors has extended its support to the party. And the most important and controversial one the Patidar agitation leader, Hardik Patel also on Tuesday said that he is satisfied with the options given by Congress for the reservation of the community under the OBC and will take the final call to support Congress.

The caste politics being played by the Congress has increased the restlessness of the already anxious BJP in Gujarat. This could be clearly depicted when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, himself made a statement while addressing a rally in Gujarat that, do not come under the influence of casteism, caste issues will obstruct the development of the state.

To circumvent BJP in Gujarat, Gehlot has tried to capitalize on issues like note ban, flawed implementation of GST and the protest of the agitated Patidar as its main weapons to pull down on the ruling BJP. Taking into account the huge response of the people in the Congress rallies it seems like the Chanakya has been successful in formulating a multi layered defense strategy against the BJP.

All the Congress leaders are also appreciating and supporting every plan of Ashok Gehlot. The Congress in charge also very strategically finalized the seats that the party needs to focus on. As per his thinking it would be a waste of time if the party concentrated on those seats, which the BJP were set to win no matter what. So Gehlot very tactfully only focused on those seats that the Congress could nail down if put in hard works and efforts. He has finalised 135 such seats out of the total 168 where the party has a chance of winning.

Ashok Gehlot had also made the roadmap of the Navsarjan Yatra for Rahul Gandhi in order to cover all the regions of Gujarat as a part of the election campaigning ahead of the polls. He had made plans to cover the entire Gujarat in four phases, including central, north, south and Gujarat. Rahul visiting different temples during the campaign was also a part of the strategy of Gehlot in order to clean the anti-Hindutva and the minority appeasement image of the Congress.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Antony Committee had reported that the anti-Hindutva image of the Congress was one of the major reason for its defeat. In order to clear this allegation and an attempt o prepare for the next Lok Sabha polls, Rahul began his Navsarjan Yatra from Saurashtra’s Dwarkadhish temple. Throughout the campaigning, Rahul was seen with a ‘tilak’ on his forehead and the Congress leader did not miss to bow and offer prayers in any of the temples that he crossed.

This new behavior of the Congress of trying to project itself as a party supporting the Hindutva has left the BJP restless. Adding to this, the past few months have not been in favour of the Central BJP government and Prime Minsier Narendra Modi. Despite using all possible political tactics the party failed to defeat the Congress candidate Ahmed Patel, in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections, which gave a ray of hope to the Congress.

While the failure of the Modi government on the economic front in wake of the note ban and implementations of flawed GST has united the opposition parties against the BJP. Not just the opposition, but many BJP leaders also including Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Shatrughan Sinha openly criticised the decision of Modi, which added fuel to the agitation of the people and further faded the Modi wave, bringing Congress to the limelight.

In such situation, when the feeling of anti-incumbency is rising against the BJP and Congress being successful in gaining the attention of the people, all eyes are on the results of the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat assembly polls. Though BJP is still confident about victory in both the state, nothing can be predicted in advance in Indian politics. The Gujarat polls are also important as its result will further pave the path for the Lok Sabha elections due in 2019.

Gujarat will go to polls on 9 and 14 Dec in two phases and the results will be announced on 18 Dec along with the results of Himachal Pradesh assembly elections.