Gujarat elections Round 2: It’s over to voters after intense war of words between Congress and BJP

Gujarat elections 2017: Narendra Modi’s home state votes in the second and last phase on Thursday. The results will be declared on December 18.

assembly elections Updated: Dec 13, 2017 23:33 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Ahmedabad, Hindustan Times
Gujarat elections,Voting in Gujarat,Live updates
Officials check an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) ahead of the second phase of Gujarat Vidhan Sabha elections in Ahmedabad on December 13, 2017. (AFP)

The campaign for the Gujarat elections started on the ‘vikas’ plank but as the poll fever peaked both the Congress and the BJP shifted their focus to other issues --- from the Ram temple in Ayodhya to Pakistan’s ‘interference’ in the state polls. The second phase of polling for 93 seats will take place on Thursday.

Allegations galore

A day after the first phase of voting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 10 attacked the Congress over a “secret meeting” with former Pakistani minister at the residence of the now suspended party leader Mani Shankar Aiyar.

In his response, Aiyar resorted to calling the PM a “neech” person, which resulted in his suspension from the Congress.

Veteran Congress leader Ahmed Patel, who is the political secretary of outgoing Congress president Sonia Gandhi, announced that he “will not be the CM” after Modi alluded to a few media reports and stated that Pakistani Army’s former Director-General Arshad Rafique wanted Patel as Gujarat’s CM if the Congress was voted to power.

Amid the mud-slinging, Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi maintained that he would not indulge in personal attacks on the Prime Minister but added that the PM’s speeches highlighted his self-obsession. “Sixty percent of the times, Modiji speaks only about Narendra Modi in his rallies,” Gandhi had said in one of his rallies.

New campaign tone

The campaigning for the 2012 assembly elections and the 2014 Lok Sabha polls revolved around development in the state. This time, however, the campaign took a different tone.

“Communal rhetoric was missing from Gujarat elections after 2007. Modi, who was at the time aiming for the country’s top most post, had shifted his narrative to development. But the BJP raked up the issue again this time after Gandhi visited temples during the campaign,” political analyst Hari Desai said.

In the run-up to the polls, both the BJP and the Congress stalwarts took part in campaigning, a trend rarely seen before state elections. It was perhaps for the first time that a PM addressed over 39 rallies in a poll-bound state. Even the Congress witnessed an unprecedented trend of its top central leadership spending almost three months in Gujarat for canvassing.

“Irrespective of the election results, the campaigning process has evolved Gandhi into a mature and dignified leader. We saw a new Gandhi from the beginning of his campaign in September. By the time it ended, Gandhi sent out a clear message that he was ready for the responsibility to lead the party,” Desai added.

Gandhi’s apparent transformation seemed to have reached the BJP too as it refrained from mocking him like it had done in the past. This time around, the saffron party responded to Gandhi’s narratives, indicating that it did not want to take the Congress president-elect lightly.

Rallying forward the points made by their top leaders, both the camps intensified the attack through press statements. The role of local leaders, from both the camps, largely remained confined to their constituencies.

In a nutshell, the battle for Gujarat was fought between Modi and Rahul. It erupted on social media with ‘vikas gando thayo’ (development has gone crazy) and reached its finale with Modi showcasing his development model by taking off in a seaplane from the Sabarmati river.

First Published: Dec 13, 2017 23:15 IST