Communalism edged out development in the campaign that came to an end on Friday for the 95 seats that go to polls on Sunday.
The second phase comprises districts in central and north Gujarat that had been witness to the worst kind of communal divide in 2002 leading to the BJP gaining heavily in pockets, which were Congress strongholds.
The important leaders in the fray include Chief Minister Narendra Modi who is contesting from Maninagar against Union Minister of State for Petroleum Dinsha Patel.
Although the campaign had began on a dull note with Modi touting his development plank and the Congress, too, avoiding the contentious communalism issue, electioneering took a turn with Congress president Sonia Gandhi calling the Gujarat rulers “merchants of death” and Modi flashing the communal card by seeking to justify the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh. Modi later claimed that he was provoked by Sonia to raise the Sohrabuddin issue.
Provocation or not, Modi’s campaign style was akin to his five-year tenure during which he successfully used a potent mix of being a ‘Hindutva’ icon at times and a ‘development’ man at others.
Just like the BJP’s debate about its rightist face (mukh) having the compulsions of wearing a mask (mukhota) of liberalism, Modi, too, displayed his face (of communalism) even though he had decided to hide behind the mask (of development) in the initial phase of campaigning.
Apart from Ahmedabad and Vadodara, the worst affected cities during the post-Godhra riots, the second phase also includes capital Gandhinagar where a sizable chunk of government employees are cut up with Modi due to his tough task master role. They fear that Modi’s return would mean that the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations for them would not be implemented.