Gujarat polls: Modi addresses 4 rallies, Mann also hits campaign trail

Published on Nov 25, 2022 08:46 AM IST

Modi again hit out at the Congress and said it did not follow the Gandhian principles to develop villages

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed four rallies on Thursday. (PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed four rallies on Thursday. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the elections in Gujarat next month will decide the state’s future for next 25 years as he addressed four rallies. He underlined Gujarat has become a solar and wind power energy hub and that Banaskantha in the state’s north has potential to become the global green hydrogen hub. Modi again hit out at the Congress and said it did not follow the Gandhian principles to develop villages. He said Gujarat villages are comparable to cities in terms of infrastructure and development.

Punjab chief minister Bhagwan Mann also hit the campaign trail for the Aaam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has raised the issue of the bridge collapse in Morbi, which left 135 people dead on October 31 .

Morbi bridge tragedy: Wrath of God or neglect

The bridge collapsed five days after it was reopened for public with approval of the local municipality. Some attribute it to the “wrath of God” and others have blamed the municipality even as life has begun to return to normal in Morbi, which is known as India’s ceramic tile capital. The focus has shifted to the electoral battle.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has filed former lawmaker Kantilal Amrutiya in place of minister Brijesh Merja. A video of Amrutiya jumping into the Machhu river to save people went viral on social media after the tragedy. It is now part of BJP’s campaign in the constituency. Merja won the seat as a Congress candidate in 2017. He retained it in a by-poll in 2020 after defecting to the BJP.

In 2017, Congress won three seats in the Morbi district in the wake of Patidar agitation for reservation in government jobs and education. It tapped into the anger also over the 2016 demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. In 2022, headwinds for the party appear to be largely absent.

Three-way contest?

AAP has raised the issue of the tragedy as it seeks to make inroads into Gujarat following its victory in Punjab polls this year. It has sought to project the Gujarat polls as a three-way contest. Election in Gujarat have since 1990 been bipolar with the BJP the number one party followed by Congress.

AAP’s entry may change this long-term trend in the state, which is also the BJP’s strongest bastion. If the AAP manages to get a vote share to reckon with and the contest does become triangular, what impact will it have on the state’s politics? Centre for the Study of Developing Societies Lokniti pre-poll survey suggests the AAP is primarily eating into Congress votes.

Discontent

The Diamond Workers’ Union Gujarat (DWUG) has urged the artisans to boycott the BJP in the election and vote for the party willing to “judiciously resolve” their long-standing issues. Ramesh Jilariya, the DWUG president, said, “As an umbrella organisation, we have been representing the BJP government in Gujarat for various issues faced by the diamond workers’ community, but they have not cared to resolve the problems. Over three million diamond artisans from Surat, Navsari, and the districts in the Saurashtra region are at the receiving end for the last 12 years. It is now or never.”

Increase in candidates with criminal cases

An Association for Democratic Reforms and the Gujarat Election Watch report released on Thursday said about 13% (100) of 788 candidates in fray in first phase of the Gujarat elections on December 1 have criminal cases registered against them. It marks a 28% increase compared to 2017 elections.

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