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Kaun jeetega Gujarat: Modi uses phone-a-friend lifeline to remember old connections

Modi made eight to 10 calls to people of Gujarat, the numbers were selected randomly. BJP sources said he will next interact with members of NAMO app.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2017 23:59 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Narendra Modi,Rahul Gandhi,Gujarat election
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses journalists during Diwali Mangal Milan programme at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on October 28.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

Hello, the Prime Minister is on the line.

Narendra Modi is striking a chord with his home state’s grassroots BJP workers with his phone, a weapon that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi may miss in his arsenal in the battle for Gujarat.

The BJP’s biggest crowd-puller is calling up party workers personally to add to his high-decibel campaigns and innovative techniques such as 3D holographic projections at rallies and “chai pe charcha” meetings, which he used ahead of his successful 2014 parliamentary polls.

“These personal calls by the Prime Minister are making a huge impact both on the party and the people of Gujarat. His approach is infusing new energy into our strong organizational network. This goes to prove how he remains a people’s leader unlike Rahul Gandhi,” BJP media cell in-charge Harshad Patel said.

The phone-a-friend strategy is seen as an attempt to underline his ability to remember old connections and rekindle emotional bonds ahead of the high-stakes December 9 and 14 elections in Gujarat, which he ruled as chief minister from 2001 to 2014.

The calls are meant to dent Gandhi’s growing social media presence and the Congress-backed online campaign — Vikas gando thai gayo che, or development has gone crazy — gaining popularity.

This is also a counteroffensive against Gandhi’s outreach during his recent tour of the state, where he had tea sitting on a cot with the family of party worker in Jamnagar and performed Navratri puja at a garba event in Rajkot.

Audio clips of Modi’s calls to two party workers in Gujarat are widely shared on social media networks.

In the first clip, he is heard talking to Gopal Gohil, BJP general secretary of Ward Number 13 in Vadodara who is a shopkeeper.

The Prime Minister tells him to ignore negativity in campaigns. Modi cites how he was called “maut ka saudagar” or merchant of death, and a murderer by the Congress, but he concentrated on working for Gujarat.

“We have been destined to be abused since the launch of Jan Sangh. But you should not worry about it … Has there been any election when lies were not spread? … They said my hands were stained with blood. But people know the truth. Earlier, rumours were spread by word of mouth, now WhatsApp is there to help those who wish to spread rumours,” Modi tells Gohil.

The pep talk had a positive effect on the man and he now promises to redouble his efforts for a party victory.

Gohil said when Modi recollected about his stationary shop, he was left speechless. “Despite having a pressing schedule, Saheb makes it a point to talk to small party workers like me. This is a matter of pride for me and my generations to come,” he said.

In another call, made to Sumitraben at Dharampur in south Gujarat’s Valsad district, Modi says he remembers a dish she cooked for him during a visit to Dharampur long ago. Sumitraben replies that it was soup. Modi goes on to ask her to “ignore casteist” politics by the Congress and mentions names of some other workers.

The connection is instantaneous as Modi had intensively worked at the grassroots level for years before becoming the chief minister. He enjoys a personal rapport with party workers.

The BJP said more such calls are coming in the run-up to the polls for the 182-member assembly.

“These phone calls were part of an audio bridge conference (on Diwali), through which Narendrabhai was connected to Gujarat’s 25,000 BJP workers … A call made to a worker was being heard by all others in that segment,” said BJP Vadodara city president Keyur Rokadia.

Modi made eight to 10 calls and the numbers were selected randomly. BJP sources said he will next interact with members of his mobile application, NAMO.

First Published: Oct 30, 2017 20:17 IST