Out, Secular Spots!
The secular spots are coming off and the sharp shades of saffron are emerging upfront as chief minister Narendra Modi, the sole mascot of his party, plunges into the heat and grime of electioneering in Gujarat.
That Modi is under pressure as both the Congress and former BJP patriarch Keshubhai Patel's regional outfit, Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) stir the poll pot, is becoming increasingly evident with just nine days to go for the first phase of voting on December 13.
Caught between the devil and the deep sea, the chameleon- like switch is swift. Almost as if to send a signal to the majority community vote bank that the messiah of development still qualifies for the epithet of ‘hindu hriday samrat’.
Even hardcore Modi admirers rue the fact that the BJP candidates list is completely bereft of any Muslim name. "Atleast two Muslim candidates should have been accommodated to consolidate a dent in the Muslim vote bank of the Congress, particularly among the young and the impressionable," points out a senior scribe who makes no bones about his soft corner for Modi. ”He cannot afford to take chances with the hardcore Hindu voter who has not been happy about his attempt to reach out to the Muslims, " counters Suresh Patel of the GPP.
Patel has a point because the GPP headed by Keshubhai Patel is almost like a ‘B’ team of the Sangh Parivar. Patriarch Patel is himself an RSS swayamsevak and Gordhan Jhadapia, its backbone, comes from VHP stock. The Sangh genes run strong through the party and it proudly displays this like a badge of honour. The ‘pradeshik baithak’ of the RSS held in Vadodara some time ago had given out a clear signal that both Modi and Keshubhai belong to us. With almost all Sangh parivar outfits split between the two, the loyalty of the hardcore Hindu voter cannot be taken for granted by Modi any longer. In fact the cadres may get to hear the last word from Nagpur later this week.
Modi actually has no one but himself to blame for this predicament. He earned the ire of the ’ hardcore’ as he endeavoured to change the spots in the pursuit of his Delhi dreams through his three day sadbhavana fast in Ahmedabad September last year. His secular foray, through the plethora of skullcaps gathered with supreme effort, came to nought when he refused to wear one himself while it went to anger those who had stood by him.
With GPP upping the ante and BJP MP Navjyot Siddhu making a faux passé calling Patel, a respected elder, as anti-national and voting for him tantamount to eating cow meat, Modi finds himself in a veritable minefield of his own laying.
This therefore has necessitated a return to roots. Apart from no tickets to Muslims, the manifesto also remains silent on them, except on the modernization of madarsas.
A reminder of the run up to the 2002 Vidhan Sabha elections held in the backdrop of the Godhtra train carnage and the statewide communal violence that followed was the repeated references to "Mian Musharraf" (in this case a euphemism for Muslims) during his acid dripping speeches during his Gujarat gaurav rathyatra.
This time out of the blue Modi has begun targeting Ahmed Patel, political advisor to Congress President Sonia Gandhi who hails from Gujarat. While seeking to foist a conspiracy theory that Congress is planning to make him the chief minister of the state through the backdoor, Modi stressfully names him as Ahmed Mian Patel in his campaign speeches. The entire exercise is aimed at sending a message to his hardcore Hindu votebank that the political leopard has not changed its spots.
Clubbed together with the fact that Modi has not been able to deny a ticket to a single member of his cabinet including over the hill ministers like Vajubhai Vala in Rajkot and Narottam Patel in Surat nor drop a bulk of his sitting legislators to duck anti-incumbency ( he changed 50 per cent last elections), and Modi’s current discomfiture leading to his changing stance becomes all too clear. He has no option but to create a poll decoction that is a mix of communal, caste as well as development in a bid to remain ahead
Twenty Five hours after BJP launched what it called its “commitment charter”, Congress released its manifesto at its office in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
Congress High Command delegated Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit for the occasion, who launched a scathing attack on Gujarat Chief Minister taking him on at his self claimed forte of development.
“We don’t need to learn from Modi,” Sheila said adding that it is for Narendra Modi to take a lesson or two from Delhi government as far as development is concerned.
The slew of poll promises woven in Congress manifesto essentially revolved around the common man, the coveted deity of election season.
The poll sops entail tablets for the students who pass standard tenth and laptops for the ones who pass class twelve and interest free education loans. The age for government jobs will be raised to 35 years, 10 lakh jobs for the educated in the state in nexy five years, diesel subsidy for the fishermen, free medical treatment for those with annual income of less than three lakh rupees, opening up the gate of secretariat for everyone implementation of right to education were other promises on the list.
Gujarat Congress President Arjun Modvadia also promised to create a Gujarat for common man, free of the Tatas and the Birlas.
He also said that in the case his party is voted in to power, a special study team will be formed to identify what all the BJP government has robbed the public in Gujarat of.
The Congress manifesto also contained special sops for the drought hit farmers in Saurashtra region. The party had been fanning the discontent among the farmers after a bad monsoon in the state. As it is, BJP too had announced special irrigation schemes for the region.