Gujarat polls: Modi makes a splash with seaplane ride, saves his ‘Vikas’ showcase for the last day
Gujarat assembly elections 2017: Authorities had denied Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi permission to hold rallies in Ahmedabad over law and order concerns.GujaratElection2017 Updated: Dec 13, 2017 13:06 IST
Three days before the Gujarat poll schedule was announced on October 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled from Ghogha in Bhavnagar to Dahej in Bharuch. By road it takes nearly 8 hours, but Modi covered the distance under an hour. Showcasing a new mode of transport, he took the inaugural ride on the Rs 615-crore Roll-on, Roll-off ferry service between the two towns.
“Isn’t this called vikas (development)?” he later asked at a public rally near Rajkot.
In the high-octane campaign for Gujarat, as the opposition led by Congress president–elect Rahul Gandhi kept on targeting the ‘Gujarat model’, the PM began and ended his campaign showcasing development.
On the last day of campaigning on Tuesday, as Modi took a flight from Sabarmati to Dhorai dam in a single-engine seaplane, on display was one of his major achievements as Gujarat CM from 2001 to 2014 – the 10-km long Sabarmati Riverfront.
The Rs 1,152 crore Sabarmati project by the Modi government had infused new life into the otherwise drying river by diverting Narmada waters into its stream through the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD).
In one of his early rallies Modi had accused past Congress governments and its leaders -- from first PM Jawaharlal Nehru to the last UPA PM Manmohan Singh--of leaving the SSD project in the lurch. He claimed credit for the final step of installing the dam gates as his first gift to his home state after becoming Prime Minister in 2014.
The makeover gave Ahmedabad, divided by a river, an internationall look, like other major metropolises in the world ,including New York and London, where rivers flow through the city.
On Tuesday, hundreds of people thronged the concrete structure that runs along the length of the river. They chanted `Modi, Modi’. Dressed in yellow kurta and a high-neck blue jacket, Modi waved for quite a while before embarking for Maa Amba Temple in Ambaji town where he reached after landing in the Dhorai dam reservoir in Mehsana in the sea plane.
“With air, road and rail connectivity, our government is making efforts for harnessing waterways. All this is for 125 crore Indians,” Modi twitted on the eve of the sortie.
Though this tweet targeted the entire Indian population, he followed it up with a couple more tweets in Gujarati for poll-bound Gujarat. He described the experience of “taking off from Sabarmati Riverfront” and landing at Dharoi dam as “incredible”.
The seaplane service is being touted as a first of its kind in India. While Modi did not address any public meeting or brief statement on Tuesday, his almost day-long stay in his home state--from 10 am to 5 pm-- remained the talk of the state. He kept the topic alive by explaining, again in Gujarati, via twitter how such seaplanes can help promote tourism.
A day earlier, he had given hint that seaplanes were very much a part of the government’s development plans. Addressing a rally on Monday, Modi had said, “The administration has not given permission and I had time. So I have decided to go to Ambaji in the seaplane. We cannot have airports everywhere, so our government has planned to have these seaplanes.”
BJP leaders across the state mentioned the seaplane service in their speeches. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani called it “flight of development”. The party, which was on the backfoot after the “Vikas Gando Thayo Che (Vikas has gone crazy)” viral campaign that the opposition pounced on to take potshot at the ruling party, launched a counter-attack with its ”I am Vikas, I am Gujarat” videos. Even the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project launched by Modi earlier this year found some mention during the campaigning, which ended with the seaplane project.
Giving a religious touch to his Tuesday’s campaign, Modi started his day by offering prayers at Mata No Madh in Kutch and ended his drive by offering prayers at the Ambaji temple.