Gujarat election: BJP banks on PM Narendra Modi’s appeal to ride past protests | assembly elections | Gujarat 2017 | Hindustan Times
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Gujarat election: BJP banks on PM Narendra Modi’s appeal to ride past protests

Every BJP banner or pamphlet features Prime Minister Narendra Modi prominently and he has travelled to his home state Gujarat at least 10 times in the past one year.

assembly elections Updated: Oct 27, 2017 08:33 IST
Hiral Dave
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani at Ghogha Sea Ferry point to mark the inauguration of Ghogha-Dahej Ro-Ro ferry service, in Ghogha, Bhavnagar, on October 22, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani at Ghogha Sea Ferry point to mark the inauguration of Ghogha-Dahej Ro-Ro ferry service, in Ghogha, Bhavnagar, on October 22, 2017. (PTI Photo)

Faced with anti-incumbency and angry Patidars, the BJP is banking on its tallest leader with a pan-state appeal: Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Every BJP banner or pamphlet features the PM prominently and Modi has travelled to his home state at least 10 times in the past one year — the last five visits in a little over a month.

Most of his visits are designed to pack in launch or inauguration of at least one big-ticket project— dedication of Sardar Sarovar Dam to the nation and foundation laying of Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train in September being the most prominent ones. On the sidelines, he inaugurates hospitals, dairies, housing projects, diamond processing units, sports complex and drinking water supply to housing societies.

At the same time, his visits are clubbed with national or international events like Indo-Japan annual summit (September 2017), Textile India Conclave (June-July 2017), annual general meeting of African Development Bank (May 2017) and National Conference for Women Sarpanchs (March 2017).

“The BJP state leadership is working hard on the ground and they have Modi’s popularity to maintain its voter base. Its campaign design revolves around Modi. At the same time, the Congress state leadership seems to lack network to reach out to the voters with valid issues like GST raised by Rahul Gandhi,” said senior journalist and political analyst Jawalant Chhaya.

Experts say the BJP learnt its lesson from the December 2015 local body polls where the party suffered heavy losses in the countryside. It was the first major election after Modi left Gujarat and set alarm bells ringing.

Modi didn’t participate very actively in the initial phases of the October Gujarat Gaurav Yatra that covered almost 150 of the state’s 182 constituencies over a fortnight. Several party leaders, including chief minister Vijay Rupani, deputy CM Nitin Patel and state BJP chief Jitu Vaghani, addressed what were mostly small-scale gatherings.

But the yatra culminated in a grand fashion on October 16 as Modi made one of his three visits to the state this month to address hundreds of thousands of BJP workers on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.

“Gujarat was meted out grave injustice during the UPA’s 10-year-old rule. The PM’s visits are now trying to fill in those gaps. He comes to inaugurate all these state projects because earlier foundation for same was laid by him,” BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya told HT.

While the BJP has called the PM’s visit a push for their development agenda, the Congress has termed it nervousness of the BJP.

“The nervous BJP is left with no option but to fall back on the PM. Even the Election Commission delayed poll announcement so that the BJP could complete all these functions,” said senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia.

But the Congress has problems of its own — the complete lack of state-level leadership and a dependence on vice president Rahul Gandhi.

The Congress has had a crisis of leadership in the state since the Madhavsinh Solanki era came to end in the late eighties. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has led the assembly elections campaign since 2004, and this is for the first time Rahul Gandhi, who may soon become party chief, is seen taking the responsibility on his shoulders.

The Congress posters feature state president Bharatsinh Solanki and others, including senior leaders Shaktisinh Gohil and Arjun Modhwadia, but Gandhi is featured prominently and it is only the 47-year-old who addresses large rallies.