I woke up on Monday morning to a mailbox flooded with messages from Gujarat. There were hundreds of clippings of Gujarati newspapers reporting BJP leader LK Advani's latest comments against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and the message from BJP members from Modi's own state that said, "Advani sachu bolya ke Gujarat toh pahle thi j samrudh hatu--Modi a toh Gujarat ne lutyu! (Advani speaks the truth when he says Gujarat was always prosperous - on the contrary Modi has looted Gujarat)"
The second part of the statement was most certainly not Advani's but those BJP members who sent me the messages had been crying from the rooftops for a long time about Modi's propaganda and propensity to lie and exaggerate. For example, they went viral when in March this year, Modi, speaking to women entrepreneurs, laid claim to Lijjat Papad as a Gujarat state enterprise when in fact it was born in the bylanes of the very Maharashtrian locality of Girgaum in Bombay (That's when he earned the 'Feku' tag.) He laid claim to Amul--the milk in your tea comes from Gujarat - when he, in fact, had nothing to do with the enterprise. Hemant Fitter, a former BJP member who quit the party to join Keshubhai Patel's Gujarat Parivartan Party, told me that Modi treated the Amul founder Dr Verghese Kurien very badly, forced him out of Anand in his last years and did not even accord this modern revolutionary, who transformed India, a state funeral.
Now my inbox is flooded with messages--supported by newspaper clippings--that even I, not a Modi fan, find appalling. One of these says that the Modi government has sold blood donated by people for Rs. 11 crore. Another speaks of how farmers are being criminalised and punished for drawing water from their own wells in the interest of multinational water companies. The Surat Municipal Corporation is allegedly not being allowed to draw water from the Tapi River for its residents when constitutionally every city on the edge of a river has the right to free water from that source. Another clipping speaks of government schools being closed down in Gujarat and education largely being handed over to private entrepreneurs. Yet another clipping speaks of 5,00,000 graduates being on a pay of just R2,500, 10,00,000 unemployed and 40,00,000 Gujarati families living below the poverty line. The message - Modi vikas na gappa mare (Modi is simply gassing about development).
But what tickled me pink was a widely-circulated morphed picture of Modi. It is made to look like a poster of Dabangg - Modi's face on Salman Khan's uniformed body asking - "Swagat nahi karoge hamara?' (Will you not welcome me?)
Obviously, Modi as prime minister seems a less welcome proposition to even Gujaratis unlike what we have been led to believe and Advani seems to have brought some fresh hope to a large number of BJP workers who are now elated at the prospect of this old fox gradually and eventually exposing Modi for what he really is. I had never thought I would ever agree with Advani. But I have made the same comparisons that Advani is now making between Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat though my argument was for Nitish Kumar's own 'BIMARU' Bihar coming up from scratch to a golden enterprise. And that, too, without having to endanger a single Muslim to return to power. In fact, I had always wondered why Modi should be seen as exceptional when even some BJP-ruled states had developed well - and the party had returned to power in those states, though they do not lack commitment to Hindutva as at least Madhya Pradesh, which has shielded many saffron terrorists, proves.
Now that Advani, the patriarch of the BJP, has come to recognise, however late, that Modi is really no exception, a good deal of hope is rising even among BJP members that the truth about Modi will prevail. And the naked truth is that Modi's bid to become PM, apart from a hyped up exercise in self-aggrandisement is actually more an attempt to run away from Gujarat before Gujarat catches up with him as all the viral uncharitable messages about him seem to suggest is clearly happening. Looking at how Gujarat is electrified by Advani's Modi-baiting, the PMO is going to be no cake walk for the self-proclaimed lion of Gujarat, I should think!
(The views expressed are personal.)