Adding salt to the election fervours, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today started his two-day Gujarat visit where he would inaugurate several projects worth Rs 29,000 crore.
The PM had started his journey from Surat and will head to Bhavnagar where he is supposed to launch significant projects including stone laying of the world's first CNG terminal and a brownfield port.
Waving through the scheduled rally from Ghodadara to Limbayat, after his arrival at Surat Airport, the Prime Minister inaugurated one of the most awaited Diamond Research and Mecantile (DREAM) project that as Modi said would make Surat the safest and convenient diamond trading hub in the world.
Emphasizing on the significance of double engine government, a pet term of Modi administration that refers to the same party governance in centre and the state, the PM said that in last few decades Surat has been growing by leaps and bounds.
Though the visit is official in nature, the winds of the election couldn’t refrain from touching the former CM of the state.
Recalling his days of struggle as the CM when he couldn’t manage to make the then Congress-led UPA government understand the importance of an Airport in Surat, Modi said, “Now, many people come and go from the airport here and it has helped in the city's development. This is the benefit of the double engine government.”
He also brought in the reference of one of his favourite and acclaimed projects Ayushman Bharat to note that out of 32 lakh beneficiaries in Gujarat 1.25 lakhs belong to Surat.
Political observers are however, looking at these stone laying ceremonies as electoral trumpets. As the political environment of the state is getting charged up with the growing visibility of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the state, BJP is also folding its shirts to enter the fray.
Food Grain Scheme Extended for Three Months
Interestingly, yesterday the central government extended Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) for three months up to December. The scheme was about to get over by September 30.
As per the provisions of PM-GKAY, the beneficiaries are entitled to get 5 kg food grains per head over the amount assigned to them through the National Food Security Act, 2013. The project was taken up by Centre in March, 2020 to reduce the hardships of the people during the Covid lockdown period. The scheme covers almost 80 crores people. The extension of the project is going to cost Rs. 44, 700 crores to the exchequer.
Though the scheme had been extended previously several times, the timing of this extension, as political analysts note, may have some connection with both the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections. Gujarat Elections are scheduled to be held in the end of the year.
Congress wooing Patidar voters
A day before Modi’s scheduled visit to the state Congress was found visiting temples across Saurashtra revered by the powerful Patidar community. In a rally that started with garlanding the Gujarat strongman Sardar Patel, the senior state Congress leaders gave the slogan, “Chalo Congress ke saath, Maa ke dwar.”
The first stop on the 200-km route of the rally was the Khodaldham temple of Goddess Khodiyar, the patron deity of the Leuva Patidar community in Rajkot district. The rally covered Ganthila in Junagadh district before concluding at Sidsar in Jamnagar district. Both the villages are known for the temples of Maa Umiya, the patron deity of the Kadva Patidar community.
Significantly, in 2017, the Congress had won 30 out of 54 Assembly seats in Saurashtra, whereas compared to its 2012 poll performance, the BJP ceded 13 segments to Congress. The Congress is now confident of winning 125 of the total 182 seats in Gujarat, state party chief Jagdish Thakor told reporters here before the rally started.
AAP looking for Roadways
Amidst the different strategies opted by the Congress and the ruling BJP, the new entrant in the game AAP is looking for roadways. The arrest of their communication strategist Vijay Nair has already given a blow to the party.
Kejriwal’s Gujarat visit and meeting with sanitation workers, riding an auto to uphold the image of the commoner though worked for a while, it is true that in front of Narendra Modi’s overwhelming image that doesn’t stand a game.
In this context, Modi’s visit to the home state becomes extremely significant. In the next 24 hours with Modi travelling a long patch in his old turf, political analysts feel, will make the scales of political supports fully tilt in his favour.
(With PTI Inputs)