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The third consecutive victory of the BJP led by Narendra Modi in Gujarat marks a high watermark in the political landscape of India. For political observers inclined to time and again conjure up an anti-incumbency factor, it was an occasion to encounter its opposite, a pro-incumbency factor. The voters themselves have articulated what this factor amounts to.
The 2012 poll narrative in Gujarat has shown that this election was being fought on the plank of good governance, which manifested itself in various forms: increasing investment in small, medium and large industries, governance reaching people’s very doorsteps, long- and short-term policies for sustainable agriculture, international-class infrastructure, 24x7 supply of three-phase power and so on. This benefited everyone, without palliatives offered to any one section. The Congress, which had focused on the post-Godhra riots in the election of 2002 and on Modi the person in 2007, had to perforce accept in 2012 that good governance was the central issue. Emotive or divisive issues no longer appeal; on the contrary, they put off voters.
Involving myself as a BJP karyakarta during the election campaign was a memorable learning experience. The state BJP unit is well-organised to the last polling booth. The leadership is clear with its vision. Several teams worked, each in their own domain within the party. All teams worked in perfect sync. Modiji was surely a part of these teams. Whether it was in the selection of candidates or the place where a rally had to take place, the decision of the team was final. Modiji followed it as much as the others. Everyone had their views heard and no one ran roughshod over anyone else.
The communication media was utilised during the campaign; however, the campaign was not media-driven. Despite the technology, Modiji believed in directly connecting with the people. It is worth recalling here that his administration was guided by this principle in every way. So connecting with people was not a poll-time gimmick.
It won’t be wrong to state that Modiji’s inner strength, experience and willingness to learn gives him confidence to invite domain experts to present newer ideas. He works to translate ideas and technology into doables; this was more than apparent during the campaigns. It was his suggestion to try out 3-D holography for the campaign. It was tried and tested, and being convinced of the effectiveness, it was used extensively to reach out to more people.
My experience in attending one such presentation was very interesting. As part of the audience, I was aware that everyone was as enthralled by his 3-D presence as they would have been by his physical presence. They connected with him, answering every question, clapping when happy and were wonderstruck when his image sipped water from a glass. The assembled audience did not leave the venue well after the event was over, wondering aloud if Modiji was somewhere inside and if they could get to seeing him leave. Thinking out of the box, getting people involved and communicating directly with simple clarity—these were the sources of the strength of the BJP Gujarat 2012 campaign.
While the teams worked on, the motivational force behind was indeed Modiji. He is sharp and quick in taking arguments forward. He would raise questions for clarification and build on answers given. An immediate sense of professional satisfaction flows in when one’s thought gets included in the building of an edifice. The youngest and the oldest are given space and recognition. Efficiency and delivery are kept as dynamic as is possible and hence optimal performance is more often achieved. During the course of the meetings, mobiles were kept tucked in bags or in pockets; this applied to everyone. It was inspiring to see youth in small groups coming from all over India to the BJP office in Ahmedabad to work for Modi. They came from as far as Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and so on. They were there at their own expense, having taken time off work or college.
While in every constituency the state unit meticulously carried out their door-to-door campaigns, the groups sat down late night to review their day’s work. Besides planning out for the next day’s work, listening in to Modiji’s speech of the day was an unstated agenda. They felt it helped them clear their thoughts and structure their arguments better.
The entire campaign was run on a positive note. We set the agenda that our government’s good work should be explained in all its detail to the people. The promises made in the 2007 BJP manifesto were largely fulfilled. The Congress’s obstructionist agenda had to be brought to the attention of the people. Blunt, straight questions were to be asked of the Congress, which we did. But instead of answering the questions raised, the Congress engaged in spreading false data and even playing up the minority card. The caste and religion cards could no longer draw the attention of the people of Gujarat who have seen in the last 10 years that they didn’t matter, in anyway.
If anything, they appreciated that Gujarat, which had always been communally sensitive, has seen a completely calm and peaceful decade. Youngsters can’t recall any curfew! Women were safe and affordable education was available for all, without discrimination. Sarpanches in minority-dominated areas felt that there was no difference in treatment; they received as much and more. Even though everyone knew this, as they claimed, no vote was given from their area to the BJP! BJP corporators and MLAs were accessible to all, said a young entrepreneur from the minority community; those from the Congress didn’t care. If his woes are redressed by the BJP, why not vote for them, he claimed!
There was immense media interest in this election. The extent of their hard work, going to far-flung areas, meeting with representatives of the various sections, returning to verify some data/claims, attending different rallies and keeping note of the next day’s agenda—as demanding as the work of a political karyakarta indeed! However, while the party worked in all areas and among all people, as much as the Modi-led government during its tenure, there were a few who were still to be convinced. Hopefully, the result may change their view.
The Gujarat BJP unit and Modi in particular have shown in Gujarat that India and its politics need to be looked at with a new mindset. The new politics should rise above the old construct—that there is always a section which needs to be appeased. But everyone needs education, jobs and healthcare. We also need a safe environment to live and lead their lives. All with self-respect kept intact! And while doing so, there cannot be an invoking of our identities to earn some brownie points! India needs to be frank about reshaping our national goals. The idea of India which the Congress touts as if a new thought is already enshrined in our Constitution—we just need to honour it in its letter and spirit. The Gujarat BJP has just followed it since 1995.
(The writer is the BJP’s national spokesperson.)