Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad. PTI
Since the 2002 Gujarat elections, the well-oiled election campaign machinery of chief minister Narendra Modi swings into action as soon as the poll bugle is sounded in the state.
This time is no different, with trusted and discreet men of the BJP strongman handling crucial aspects of the election campaign to ensure that Modi wins the state for an unprecedented third time.
While the state BJP headquarters in Muslim-dominated Khanpur in Ahmedabad may be the hub of election activity, trusted colleagues and lieutenants of Modi tend to work behind the scenes unless their jobs demand engaging the media and public.
The headquarters is more of a control room where election speeches of the opposition Congress are monitored. It is this unit that picked up Congress president Sonia Gandhi's "maut ka saudagar" remark against Modi during the last election, which helped propel the BJP back to power.
Although political handling of six crore Gujaratis is a humungous task, Modi implicitly trusts his close friend Arun Jaitley, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, his former junior home minister Amit Shah, presently on bail in the Sohrabbuddin fake encounter case, Purshottam Rupala, MP and former state BJP president, RC Faldu, state BJP president and leader of Leuva sub-caste of Patel community and close personal friend-cum-tax lawyer Parnendu Bhagat or Kaku Bhai.
The Sangh Parivar is led by V Satish, joint general secretary (organisation) in BJP, who is constantly in touch with Modi and Jaitley and is handling the elections.
Evidently, Modi uses these men as sounding boards to calibrate his campaign. Modi's Maninagar seat is handled by his trusted aide Rakesh Patel.
The media is handled by Jaitley's close team of Nirmala Sitaraman and Shrikant Sharma at Ahmedabad while Siddarth Singh has pitched tent in Rajkot since August to handle the crucial Saurashtra.
Publicity and advertisement campaign is supervised by Jaitley along with Sushil Pandit and Kaku Bhai's son Maulik Bhagat. Pandit is a veteran of Modi campaigns while Maulik, married to Jaitley's niece, is the man behind Modi's 3D campaign. Modi also uses power minister Saurabh Patel for political management.
Party insiders say despite keeping a back-breaking schedule, Modi micro-manages the elections and his key confidantes are used to getting his calls after he returns from campaigning near midnight.
A BJP leader said Modi himself fine-tunes and calibrates the political response to the Congress. This is quite evident from the fact that the BJP has piped down its response to Gujarat Parivartan Party leader Keshubhai Patel and Shweta Bhatt, wife of controversial police officer Sanjiv Bhatt and Congress candidate from Maninagar seat.