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‘Development has gone crazy’: BJP gets jitters as campaign picks pace in Gujarat

The campaign - Vikas Gando Thayo Che (development has gone crazy) – has set social media on fire in the state, translating into billboard advertisements and sparking reactions from all political parties.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2017 22:31 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Ahmedabad, Hindustan Times
Gujarat elections,Polls,Poll campaign
On Thursday, anonymous banners surfaced in Ahmedabad cautioning people to be careful as Vikas has gone crazy and pothole-ridden roads will break your bones.(HT Photo)

Gujarat is going crazy over Vikas. But this time, Vikas (development) has come in the form of a social media campaign, giving nightmares to the ruling BJP and buoying the opposition ahead of state elections scheduled later this year.

The campaign -- ‘Vikas Gando Thayo Che’ (development has gone crazy) – has set social media on fire in the state, translating into billboard advertisements and sparking reactions from all political parties.

The campaign germinated from a Facebook post by a 20-year-old engineering student Sagar Savaliya, considered close to Patidar leader Hardik Patel, taking a dig at the BJP’s famed Gujarat model of development plank. The post, dated August 23, showed a broken down bus with a wheel axle lying nearby – captioned ‘Vikas Gando Thayo Che’.

The BJP, which banks heavily on social media to reach out to people, termed the campaign as ‘routine’ that crops up on the eve of every assembly election in Gujarat and have asked party workers to ignore it.

In his Town Hall programme in Ahmedabad on September 10, BJP chief Amit Shah asked youths not to fall prey to social media propaganda. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, also the election in-charge for Gujarat, too, told Gujarat BJP leaders last week not to react to the campaign.

The Congress, however, said the campaign was “reflection of people’s plight”.

Sagar Savaliya, the student who posted the photograph, also runs a Facebook page ‘Befaam News’ where he appealed to his friends and followers to keep uploading memes. “I saw photos of wheels detaching from a state bus and posted it on Facebook. It was shared by almost 200 people within a couple of days,” said Savaliya.

Ranging from Facebook and Twitter to WhatsApp, the campaign has now unleashed memes with funny captions to take on the BJP’s development pitch.

On Thursday, posters appeared in the Memnagar area of Ahmedabad with a “warning” against poor condition of roads. “Be careful, there is too much development ahead,” reads a poster put up near a potholes-ridden road.

In one of the memes, a pothole in heart shape was circulated with the caption: Vikas has fallen in love. The meme mocks the condition of roads in the state after monsoon. Another popular meme goes: We feel worry about Vikas if there is no hike in fuel prices within two to three days.

Savaliya told HT that the roots of ‘Befaam (Fearless) News’ lie in the August 2015 police-Patidar clashes in Ahmedabad when Patidar quota protest leaderHardik Patel was detained.

“My house at India Colony in Bapunagar area was also damaged in the police crackdown. We had to bear the expenses for its repair. My neighbour Sweatang Patel was picked up by police that day and later he died in their custody,” Savaliya said.

“A team of around 18,000 young volunteers has been pressed into service in 19 districts across Gujarat to ensure that all the posts shared by Sagar are made viral,” Dinesh Bamania, a close aide of Hardik, told HT. Bambhania, along with Hardik, is facing sedition cases.

The BJP’s strategy is two pronged to deal with the campaign – don’t give importance to it and build a counter narrative. The party expects that Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Gujarat closer to elections will make a big difference.

First Published: Sep 21, 2017 22:31 IST