First, what might happen in the short term: I expect the BJP to win the elections, though the election is close to call. The BJP’s urban, middle-class base is too strong: comfortable people love to indulge in hating others. Gujarat is not that heavily urbanised though, but it’s not all that bad. It is also not so prosperous as made out to be by some. I am however not completely sure of the election results: it might be a tight election, and these last few days might sway voters here or there. Congress is likely to take rural, tribal, and poor vote (the latter would be very different from the UP assembly elections): it is the urban middle class which Congress has to convince. In spite of being heavily hit by demo and especially GST, the trading class might still not vote for Congress, largely also because the government at the Centre is BJP’s, and a businessman wants a nice relationship between region and centre. Congress, though, is playing the game reasonably well, and only someone who knows Gujarati can know that the #VikasGaanduThayoChe is resonating a lot. Super line! A rough translation in English would be a meek “Development has gone nuts”, but “gaandu” ગાંડુ is a word loaded with connotations and bordering between normal and profane: it starts being used from childhood itself, referring to someone as “idiot”. Part of the appeal of the word lies in its mirthful phonetics. To which the BJP dug out a #HoonVikasChoon (“I am Development”), with the “I” standing for Gujarat and tying in with the BJP’s old asmita thread, but finally a quite unspectacular effort: in fact, if you tie it with Congress’s reasoning, that would mean “Hoon Gaandu Choon” (“I have gone bonkers”). I expect a lot of Patel vote to go to the Congress, instigated by Hardik Patel, and that itself is huge for Congress: in fact, even a respectable loss is a good result for the Congress. No wonder they have chosen to elevate Rahul Gandhi as their party head at this time, so credit can go to him. However, if any more gaffes like Aiyar’s mindless, arrogant Aurangzeb remarks happen, Congress will lose any votes it might be getting, and too fast. Gujarat is a border state with a Hindu majority: once, it bordered Sindh, and has had a history of Muslim invaders and conquests. It is also a state where people are not warriors, but traders: the ones who, harbouring resentments, bankroll warriors, rather than openly confronting the perceived enemy. Hence, and for other reasons, like its relative prosperity since centuries, Gujarat is a hotbed for religious cults. In addition, arrogance is not something that today’s Indian cares for (many young Indians are themselves a bit arrogant: gone are the days of slavishness, and of course gone are the days of true humility), so people like Aiyar, I don’t know what they are even doing in politics.
Next, what might happen in the long term: This is my worry. A BJP defeat would be good for the country, as it keeps power bearers in check, their arrogance in check, and yet, if the result is good for Congress, that means casteist, divisive politics has won big time. Not only that in itself would make a lot of mess in Gujarat itself, but that will also create a template for future elections: somehow, during the past decade and half, India has been to some extent free of caste factors, especially more and more so in the national Lok Sabha elections. To go back to the caste formula is an extremely dangerous step: not only does it create animosity between people and check any meaningful progress, not only it creates an atmosphere of hate, both online and offline, but it also would only be a short-term solution to prevent the rise of RSS’s Hindutva politics, for more wounds to society would mean more of a feeling of wrong, of injustice, and, consequently, more ease of apportioning blame on some particular community or some episode of history.
The Gujarat elections, whichever party wins, will determine the future course of history of India in the short term. They are the most significant India elections held since 2014, and may give a glimpse of post-2019 India. One only feels that the BJP, and strategic reactions to it, is going to bring a massive mess of balkanisation: as overcentralising is wont to do.
UPDATE, Dec. 7, 2017: Aiyar continues, this time with a shocking remark of calling a rival politician, and that too one above his station (though not maybe from the point of view of the Brahmin Aiyar), both a “wretch” and “low caste born”, and that just a couple of days before the elections’ 1st phase. Congress, never on a strong wicket, might be in for quite a damage now. Not many dislike Modi in Gujarat, even those who won’t want to vote for him: especially, hardly anyone sees him as a wretch (neech). Neither do I. Modi is a crafty and able politician, with a clean image and with a dedication to the Indian nation; he may have an ideology that not everyone is ready to stomach, and that might harm India in reality in the long term, but his personal credentials are never in question. No one expects Modi to harm India deliberately, and most expect Aiyar’s Congress to harm India deliberately. To call Modi as neech is absurd, misleading, and a political self-goal, especially at this stage of the campaign.