Jeetu Somani, BJP candidate from Wankaner, hails from the Lohana community that claims to be descendants of Ram. He is up against Mohd Javed Peerzada of Congress — the sitting MLA of this Muslim-dominated seat and a likely winner.
So what did chief minister Narendra Modi do at a rally in this town of western Gujarat, attended mostly by Somani's supporters and community?
He invoked the Ramayan to stir up the Lohanas and provide a retort to the Congress -- which had once called him a monkey -- never mind how remote his candidate’s chances.
“The Congress leaders haven't read the Ramayan, but the people of Wankenar know it. Hanuman and his monkey brigade had set Lanka on fire,” he told the assembly of nearly 8,000 voters.
In another part of the state, the crowd would have burst into laughter and cheers. The response from Wednesday’s assembly was subdued, if not muted. Somani’s supporters in the front gallery clapped. Those at the back, mostly floating voters and Muslims, kept mum.
“I take pride if I am called a descendent of Hanuman,” he said, referring to the comment of Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modvadia comparing Modi’s antics to that of a monkey. “Hanuman spent his life in the service of Lord Ram. For me, the 6 crore people of Gujarat are Ram. I will be at their service all my life.”
Not everyone in BJP, however, endorses Modi’s style.
“He is trying to push his Hinduvta philosophy. It is not going to benefit the party, not here in Wankaner,” said said Rajdipsinh Jhala, an officer bearer of the local BJP unit. Muslims comprise 30% of Wankaner’s 2.04-lakh electorate.
Wankaner has not seen any development in the last five years, pointed out others. “Our farmers get less than 8 hours of electricity. Earlier, we used to get at least 15 hours of power supply,” said Md. Rahim.
In his address, Modi, as usual, skipped local issues. Instead, he stayed with his script of potshots at the Gandhi family and the Congress’s failure in Delhi.
“They are not interested in Gujarat. They are interested in the wealth that is generated in the state,” said Modi. “That is why I have been made the chowkidar of Gandhinagar, so those who have looted Delhi do not get to loot Gandhinagar’s treasury.”