As rallies across Gujarat keep CM Rupani away, wife Anjali holds fort in Rajkot
It is a balmy weekday afternoon in Rajkot as the early morning quiet is pierced by loudspeakers blaring the signature Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tune “NaMo, NaMo”, singing the praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Snaking through a residential society in the city’s Kalawad Road area is a modified autorickshaw, with huge posters of chief minister Vijay Rupani on top. Speakers fitted on each side tell residents that the BJP’s campaign team has arrived. Groups of women party workers with saffron scarves around their necks follow the auto, and spread out in the area, going from door to door.
“Please come out. The chief minister’s wife is here to meet you,” they tell residents, handing them booklets on the achievements of the BJP government.
The soft spoken Rupani is fighting from the high-profile Rajkot West constituency, which was earlier held by Modi, and is aiming to continue the BJP’s unbroken 22-year-long ruling streak in the state. The 61-year-old leader has an old connection to the city, where he has served as mayor.
But this time, his election campaign is being managed by his wife Anjali as he is forced to stay away for long durations addressing rallies all over the state. This afternoon, for example, Rupani is away attending a rally in Bhuj where the PM is speaking.
The saree-clad, bespectacled “Anjaliben” is welcomed with rose garlands. Sporting a pair of sneakers, she appeals to voters in every home in a soft voice.
“Amne yaad rakhjo (Do remember us),’’ she says holding hands of a young mother outside her house. The voter replies, “You do not have to worry’’. Anjali quickly responds, “Your assurance has boosted my confidence’’.
After two hours and some 100 houses later, she takes a short break as a resident invites her to his home for a cup of tea. Many voters are unwilling to give their “assurance” and some are ready with a list of demands.
After going through the list of their demands, she heads for a temple in nearby Krishna Park society. When she comes out, a woman voter says, “We want our MLA to see that the open plot in our society gets a pavement’’. Anjali smiles and moves on.
“As a co-worker and wife, Anjaliben has taken upon the responsibility of campaigning for the chief minister”, said BJP spokesperson Raju Dhruv .
This is unusual in a state where many previous chief ministers – be it Modi or his successor Anandiben Patel –campaigned alone. But those close to the Rupani say Anjali has been an active member of the BJP for almost 30 years and that the couple met while working for the party. “She (Anjali) is the general secretary of the women’s wing,” added Dhruv. Rajkot goes to the polls in the first phase of assembly elections on December 9.
Sources in the BJP who refused to be named said Rupani has been kept busy by party and official matters – he was a state cabinet minister and state BJP chief before becoming the CM – and Anjali has coordinated with party workers in Rajkot, be it for staging protests or celebrations.
But this election is crucial. Rupani is facing a tough challenge in the Congress’ Indranil Rajyaguru, who changed his seat from Rajkot East to Rajkot West only to challenge the chief minister. Rajyaguru, who is also the state’s richest candidate as per poll affidavits, declared his open challenge to Rupani last year.
The Congress says for a year Rajyaguru has been nursing the constituency, which is a prestige seat for the BJP as it has given the state three chief ministers -- Keshubhai Patel, Narendra Modi and Rupani. The BJP relies heavily on the sizeable local Patidar community but this time, many from the caste are upset over being denied quotas in jobs and education.
But Anjali appears unfazed. ‘’People here are aware about the work the BJP has done. There is no contest as we do not want to defeat anyone. We just want to win people’s heart.”
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