The Congress conceded defeat in the Gujarat assembly elections, but initial analysis of the verdict showed that the party had several positive takeaways from it, which included finding a template, with a campaign that rattled Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, leading them to desperate measures.
Party leaders say the results show it was an extremely close contest, and it was even an election that they could have ended up winning. They pointed out the drastic drop in the tally of the BJP, although it has retained power in Gujarat, and also mentioned that the margin in several seats was less than a thousand.
The campaign, said Ashok Gehlot, AICC General Secretary in charge of Gujarat, was a positive one, focusing on issues of development. He said the Congress also frustrated the BJP in its efforts to polarise the electorate. “Modiji and the BJP had no reply to the questions we asked. They did not talk about any relevant issue. In frustration, Modiji spoke about Gujarati asmita. How can that be an election issue?” said Gehlot.
There is a feeling that the Congress in fact came close to winning the election, but Modi's emotional appeal to the voters towards the end of the campaign made the difference for the BJP. It is also being felt that as Modi looked to make the election all about his own personal charisma, and the pride of the people in having a prime minister who is a son of the soil. The prime minister adopted desperate measures, such as raking up the 'neech aadmi' remark by Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, and accusing former prime minister Manmohan Singh of conspiring with Pakistani officials to influence the elections in Gujarat.
Congress leaders said that, despite the party not winning, it did manage to push Modi and the BJP to the wall, and a lot of credit for this should go to newly minted party president Rahul Gandhi, who led the campaign from the front. “Rahulji has won the hearts of Gujaratis. We may have lost the election, but not the battle,” said Randeep Surjewala, AICC Communications Department head.
Gujarat, say Congress leaders, has provided the party with a template of election campaign for the coming polls, including the next Lok Sabha elections.