His last year's sadbhavna mission notwithstanding, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has retained his Hindutva symbolism and a divisive undertone while starting his election campaign for the 2012 assembly elections.
On Saturday, he performed puja and aarti at the historical Somnath temple, which is often seen as the centrepiece of Hindutva politics because LK Advani as BJP president had launched his Ram temple movement there in 1990.
Before filing his nomination papers from the Maninagar assembly segment, Modi, while addressing BJP workers, said, "The Congress has decided to make Ahmed Patel chief minister but it is not declaring it," adding, "The Congress can never find any Patel other than Ahmed Patel".
Modi's remark is seen as an attempt to give communal colour to the assembly polls and also to warn the Patel community in Saurashtra, where former CM Keshubhai Patel is trying to set them against the ruling BJP. Modi took recourse to this element of subtlety in the past also.
In the course of his public spat with the then chief election commissioner, JM Lyngdoh, in 2002, in a public appearance Modi expanded JM to James Michael, hinting at his Christian origin.
The BJP has not fielded a Muslim candidate in any of the 182 assembly constituencies though it was expected Modi would give the ticket to a minority candidate either in Wankaner in Rajkot district or Vagra in Bharuch district, both Congress-held minority-dominated seats.
"There is no emotive issue this time and the Congress has been playing local politics, raising day-to-day issues targeting middle and lower-middle classes, farmers and rural communities. Secondly, Keshubhai Patel is also focusing on local issues. So Modi has to invent something that can appeal above local issues," a senior BJP leader said, adding Modi would increasingly resort to such tactics during his electioneering.
Noted political observer Achyut Yagnik echoed similar views. "By asserting his hard-line image, he tried to appeal to a section of RSS and VHP leaders who are not happy with him and are working to damage his prospects," Yagnik said.
Keshubhai issue rocks Modi meet
The Surat police on Saturday rounded up four persons who tried to create a disturbance at CM Narendra Modi's public meeting. The four, sitting in the middle, stood up and shouted, "Why is Keshubhai Patel being called a traitor?" They were referring to BJP leader Navjot Singh Sidhu's "traitor" description of Patel.