COLUMN: A win for Congress in Gujarat may be just what Modi needs

By all accounts, the chances of a Congress victory is becoming stronger and stronger in Gujarat, a state that goes to the polls on Sunday.

The possibility was almost unthinkable two months ago, even to Congress strategists, but the ‘Patel factor’ is likely to be the deciding factor in not only nullifying the BJP’s edge, but also boosting Congress’ vote tally.

So, what will a Patel-powered win for the Congress mean for the Narendra Modi government at the Center? Would it be destabilized? Would Amit Shah be asked to step down ‘owning moral responsibility’ for the defeat?

On the contrary, a win for the Congress-Patel alliance in Gujarat may be just what the doctor ordered for the BJP at the center.


First, it would serve to remind Narendra Modi — the ace marketer — that superior marketing is of no use once a sale has been made.

In other words, you can get people to try out your product with sophisticated marketing, but once they’re on your service, they will evaluate you solely on the basis of the quality of service you provide. No amount of ‘You are enjoying a great time’ ads can convince a miserable customer that he is actually having a whale of a time when he isn’t.

This is all more important when there’s no more new customer to try to attract.

Remember, the whole of India is already your customer. There’s no prospective customer you need to attract by maintaining a feverish marketing tempo. You’ve got all the customers you ever can, now focus on delivery.

Besides, remember the ‘hype fatigue’ factor.

If your customer already feels that your performance is not up to the mark, then blaring ‘you’re having the time of your life’ ten times a day will make him feel worse. As the 2019 election draw nearer, BJP would do well to remember this lesson from its ‘India Shining’ campaign of 2004.

Finally, go easy on blaming your predecessor.

Once you are in the driver’s seat, your job is to drive and let your driving speak for itself.

There’s no need to constantly keep comparing your driving with your predecessor’s, or to tell the passengers how well you’re driving. They know.

Remember, people may not appreciate a driver who under-delivers on his promises, but they are far less likely to put up with an underperformer who keeps yakking about how great he is and how bad his predecessor was.


The second reason why a win for the Congress-Patel alliance will benefit the BJP is that it will remind people of the alternative.

Running a state government with the Patels breathing down your neck is going make for interesting experience for everyone else.

Having delivered power to the Congress, the Patels are not going to melt away into the background either.

Expect them to keep sending timely reminders about the quota, and hit the streets when reminders stop having any impact. The crisis could severely test Rahul Gandhi’s leadership skills in full public view.

Wait for the enemy to self-destruct, as it is likely to, given the recipes for the ‘perfect storm’ that are aligning themselves.

But most of all, remember one thing about the 2019 elections: If you’ve just spent five years in power, you won’t find many takers if you try to blame the “60 years of Congress’ ineptitude” for your inability to deliver.