Narendra Modi took little girls to school, campaigned against female foeticide, and brought electricity and water to homes that did not have them. On Sunday, his attempts to sell the development dream to millions of people in Gujarat succeeded. They gave him another five years to run the state.
BJP campaign managers were not initially sure that development could be a successful poll plank in what was largely considered to be a communally sensitive state. But as results poured in, activists said the verdict was an endorsement of Modi’s aggressive development agenda that saw him become a darling on investors.
Indeed, Modi has sold Gujarat as an ideal investment destination to domestic and foreign investors. Investment deals signed or promised at global summits may not have all materialised, but his efforts did win plaudits from industry leaders from the Ambanis to the Tatas.
Vijay Rupani, state BJP spokesman, told HT the 2007 verdict showed that people believed Modi could be relied upon for the fast development of the state. He said Modi's tenure had seen all-round growth in agriculture, education, industry and infrastructure.
Five years ago Modi swept the election in the shadow of large-scale religious riots in Gujarat in which hundreds of people died and which he was accused was fomenting.
This time around, Modi went to polls after earning the respect of Gujarat’s women — who form half of the electorate — for his personal interest in the welfare of the girl child and campaigns against female foeticide.
His Krishi Mahotsavs where farmers were given information about seeds, fertilizers farming techniques bore the Modi brand as the chief minister travelled through villages every weekend. Farmers saw Modi as a man who was personally interested in raising agriculture output. Agriculture contributes 10 percent to Gujarat's gross domestic product.
His Jyotigram Yojana of providing three-phase electricity to thousands of villages added to Modi's popularity, said Rupani. But critics said that Modi's development plank was a publicity stunt that paid off.
“Modi can sell himself well,” said political analyst and columnist Prakash Shah.
Industry has reasons to be happy with Modi’s return. It gives them a good reason to move ahead on the promised projects, which could have been stymied if the BJP lost.
Paru Jaykrishna, the first woman president of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Hindustan Times that Modi had come out with flying colours despite opposition. “Modi has actually built a beautiful house with all the stones people threw at him,” she said.