Unedifying campaign: On Gujarat polls
The Gujarat election campaign was marked by more heat than light
The Gujarat election campaign, the second and last phase of which concluded on Monday, was high on decibels and low on substance. Election campaigns often generate more heat than light, but this one was riddled with a string of controversies, which served to deflect attention from the real issues, particularly those relating to Gujarat’s development. For much of the campaign, the focus was on such things as Rahul Gandhi’s religious identity, a rash and intemperate remark against Prime Minister Modi, and more broadly on personalities rather than issues. This was odd given that Mr. Modi swept the 2014 general election on the promise of expanding the so-called Gujarat model of development to other parts of the country. Ironically, very little was heard of the State’s record on the economic front during the campaign, which ended on a bizarre and jarring note — with the Prime Minister accusing the Congress of colluding with Pakistan on the Gujarat election. This accusation was made on the basis that the Pakistan High Commissioner and its former foreign minister had attended a dinner at which some Congress leaders, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, were present. The allegation that the meeting was held in “secret” is laughable given the presence of a clutch of political leaders, diplomats and journalists, not to mention a former Army Chief of Staff and a former Vice-President. A stung Manmohan Singh has exposed the irresponsibility in painting such a meeting as an act of collusion with foreign officials.
It is not clear whether the unseemly edge and rancour in the campaign rhetoric was a consequence of the perception that this would be a closely fought election, as some pollsters have predicted. But there is no denying that for both parties there is a huge stake riding on this Assembly election. For the Congress, which was charged with adopting a soft Hindutva approach following soon-to-be Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s frequent visits to temples, a win here could reverse the political narrative of the last few years. The stakes for the BJP are arguably even higher — a narrow victory in the home turf will be insufficient to prevent the perception of a decline given the performance in the 2014 general election, when the party won almost 60% of the popular vote. To demonstrate that it retains the political momentum, the BJP would have to, at the very least, better its 2012 Assembly election performance, when it won 115 of the 182 seats. The big question is whether it can pull this off in the face of a new caste coalition that the Congress has cobbled together, spearheaded by the influential Patidar community, which seems palpably angry. Given Mr. Modi’s personal stake in the BJP retaining his home State and Mr. Gandhi’s need to prove himself as the Congress president, this Assembly election has had the character of a presidential contest — something that explains the huge interest in the result.
- unedifying (adjective) – distasteful; unpleasant.
- heat (noun) – intensive and unwelcome criticism.
- light (noun) – understanding, awareness, knowledge (of a problem).
- riddle with (verb) – fill, pervade, spread through.
- string (of) (noun) – series, succession, chain/sequence (of similar events).
- rash (adjective) – reckless, impetuous, hasty.
- intemperate (adverb) – immoderate, inordinate, unreasonable/unjustifiable.
- ironically (adverb) – paradoxically, unexpectedly, strangely.
- bizarre (adjective) – strange, peculiar, odd.
- jarring (adjective) – clashing/conflicting, incongruous; shocking.
- collude (verb) – collaborate, cooperate secretly; conspire.
- laughable (adjective) – humorous, hilarious, comical.
- clutch (noun) – group, set, collection.
- stung (adjective) – hurt, anguished, distressed.
- paint (verb) – describe, narrate, depict (something in a particular way).
- collusion (noun) – conspiracy, complicity, collaboration.
- rancour (noun) – bitterness, hate, hatred.
- rhetoric (noun) – heroics, hyperbole/extravagant language.
- pollster (noun) – a person who does opinion polls.
- stake (noun) – contest, challenge, rivalry.
- ride on (phrasal verb) – depend on.
- home turf (noun) – home ground; habitat, preferred surroundings of a person.
- pull off (phrasal verb) – achieve, succeed in, accomplish.
- in the face of (phrase) – despite/in spite of, notwithstanding, regardless of.
- cobble together (phrasal verb) – prepare hastily, put together roughly, patch together.
- spearhead (verb) – lead, head/front; be in the forefront of.
- palpably (verb) – clearly, visibly, noticeably.
- stake (noun) – interest, concern, involvement.