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The headache after victory

Gyan Varma & Kavita Chowdhury/New Delhi 21 Dec 12 | 01:01 AM

Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party believe they have notched significant victories in both Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat. And, both parties see this as a mixed blessing.

The Congress says though it did not get to form the government in Gujarat, its tally has gone up and Narendra Modi’s has come down. This is contradicted sharply by BJP, which says a third straight victory for Modi and a fifth term in government for BJP is nothing to sneer at.

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“Modi got two seats less. He has been contained. That he is invincible and that he has greater acceptability has been blown away" said Finance Minister P Chidambaram. He also said he anticipated no difficulty from the opposition in Parliament in the next Budget session.

It was the Himachal Pradesh victory that Cabinet ministers and Congress leaders were really happy about. “It is an indication of things to come in 2014; even the Gujarat results are a pointer," said Chidambaram to reporters. “It is clear that the Modi model of development in Gujarat does not have many takers; BJP base is shrinking."

Minister after minister hailed the contribution of Congress scion Rahul Gandhi. “Wherever Rahul Gandhi campaigned, the Congress won," claimed Manish Tewari, the information and broadcasting minister.

In BJP, the issue was different. Leaders admitted the third-term victory had made Modi the first among equals in the party. However, they were not ready to say what Modi and his supporters wanted to hear — that the Gujarat chief minister would play a greater role in the central leadership.

BJP seniors believe the party, which had governed Himachal, lost there because of corruption allegations, while Modi managed to maintain his electoral performance in Gujarat. But what about his price? They say the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would later take a call on the prime ministerial candidate of the alliance but Modi could play a bigger role in the campaign and selection committee of the party, and spearhead campaigning as well.

BJP leaders said if Modi gets an important position within BJP, no alliance partner would be able to object because it would be an internal issue of the party. Seniors also conceded Modi was the most popular leader with the cadre, who want to see him get a prominent role in the party’s functioning.

“Modi has not only won in Gujarat but he has managed to fight alone against the Congress party, Keshubhai Patel and a section within the local unit of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh who didn’t want him to do well in the Assembly election. This was the toughest election for him in the state," a BJP leader explained.

Party leaders were worried that Modi would not be able to contain the threat from ex-party strongman Keshubhai Patel in the Saurashtra region and the BJP would lose at least 10 seats. Seniors note BJP not only did well in Saurashtra but also got votes in the tribal areas of south Gujarat, earlier a Congress stronghold.

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