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Moditva steals the thunder in Hindutva laboratory

It is a hard-earned victory for the BJP in Gujarat, its 'Hindutva laboratory', the credit for which mainly goes to Narendra Modi.

india Updated: Dec 23, 2007 14:15 IST

It is a hard-earned victory for the BJP in Gujarat, its 'Hindutva laboratory', the credit for which mainly goes to Narendra Modi.

Attacks and "sabotage" came from both within the party and political rivals for the Chief Minister, who was the BJP's face in the crucial elections in the communally-sensitive state.

The victory will give a boost to Modi's stature within the BJP, considering that he single-handedly powered the party to victory, relegating the top leadership to the backseat during the high-voltage and bitter campaigning.

As results showed, the rebels did not pose much of a threat to the BJP in Saurashtra though the party lost some ground in Central Gujarat, hit badly by the post-Godhra riots in 2002.

The Assembly election was virtually a battle between Modi and anti-Modi forces, which even the 57-year-old former RSS pracharak's hardcore detractors would admit.

The Congress, which was desperate to wrest power from the BJP in the state after 12 years, focussed its entire campaign on attacking Modi, clearly indicating that he was the challenge that the party had to overcome.

Despite his being attacked for his role in the riots, the BJP consciously decided to project Modi as the 'man for Gujarat', seeing him as a perfect foil for an emotive 'jitega Gujarat' (Gujarat will win) campaign.

Modi set the agenda for the tightly-fought race right from the beginning, whether it is his emphasis on development initially or the clever use of Hindutva later.

Modi initially concentrated on development and later capitalised on Congress President Sonia Gandhi's "merchants of death" remarks to rake up the Hindutva plank.

Right from the selection of candidates to identification of campaign issues, he left his imprint firmly on the party's election strategy.

He made a daring decision to deny tickets to as many as 50 sitting legislators and field around 100 new faces to overcome the local-level anti-incumbency.

Initially, Modi spoke only about the development of the state and the welfare of five crore Gujaratis and struck a chord with the masses with his pet theme of 'Gujrati asmita', (Gujarati pride).

He refrained from publicly talking about Hindutva in the election campaign, but subtly reminded people of the Godhra train fire through newspaper advertisements.

The twist in campaigning came after Gandhi's controversial 'Maut ke Saudaagar' remarks about Modi, which shifted the thrust of the campaign to emotive issues like communal riots and terrorism.

Adding to it was Congress leader Digvijay Singh's 'Hindu terrorist" remarks which Modi utilised to the hilt to arouse passions in the communally-polarised state.

Modi countered Congress by referring to the sensitive terrorism issue and referred to the killing of Soharabuddin Sheikh, which was seen by political adversaries as justifying the fake encounter.

While Team BJP romped home victorious in Gujarat, the claimant for the man of the match crown is surely Modi, who began his political career as a RSS pracharak and went on to become a General Secretary in the BJP.

The BJP left no stone unturned to woo voters. It carpet-bombed its entire leadership, including LK Advani and Rajnath Singh, but what remain etched in everyone's mind is Modi's rouble-rousing speeches and his mask.

He travelled the length and breadth of the state and addressed campaign rallies in all the 182 constituencies, gauged the mood of the people and played the development and Hindutva card on and off.