'CM hatao' cry in dissident heartland
In Amreli, a farmer-RSS-disgruntled neta nexus operates against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, reports Ketaki Ghoge.india Updated: Nov 30, 2007 01:17 IST
In this election we must defeat Narendra Modi… get out of your homes to ensure this… He doesn't care about the villages, he meets only big industrialists and foreigners... even his shoes and spectacles are foreign-made..."
This isn't an opposition rant in Gujarat. It's from a pamphlet released by politicians who call themselves BJP.
In this heartland of dissidence, BJP and ex-BJP men have taken on Modi, their attacks on him often fiercer than the Congress's elsewhere in the state. Huge quantities of printed material and CDs are being distributed across the district by the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), a farmers' body patronised by the RSS.
The literature accuses Modi of destroying the Sangh Parivar in the state, marginalising all other senior BJP leaders and abandoning the RSS way. There are specific allegations: that the sex video of BJP leader Sanjay Joshi circulated two years ago was the handiwork of Modi, for example.
The unofficial alliance of the BJP rebels, BKS and RSS struck at least a year before the polls is doing all it can to ensure Modi loses this election.
"Modi has not done anything for us farmers," said Arvind Mhesria, BKS leader. "The development he talks of is restricted to helping the likes of Reliance and Essar grow bigger. They get power discounts and land sops for years, while we are arrested for power theft."
Thirty farmers' suicides, increasing power tariffs, water shortages and policies generally perceived as anti-poor, have made Modi unpopular enough for some farmers to refer to him as 'Ravan'. "We decided long ago that he must not win again," said Mhesria.
The discontent has been boosted by Modi's handling of once-powerful leaders. Amreli, with eight assembly seats, has three MLAs — Bavkubhai Unhad, Babubhai Tanti, and Becharbhai Bhadani — who have switched from BJP to the Congress. Gordhan Zadaphia, home minister during the 2002 riots and once a key Modi aide, is now a top dissident from Amreli. Dhiru Gajera, one of the Surat diamond merchants funding the anti-Modi campaign, also hails from here.
"All saffron organisations here have collectively decided not to support Modi," said GJ Gajera, local VHP president. "During earlier BJP governments, we were always kept informed of what was happening. Under Modi we have been completely sidelined. He trusts no one, not even those who think they are close to him."
"In Amreli town, we get water once in 12 days," added Gajera, now contesting as a Congress candidate from Surat. "What development is Modi talking about?"
Perhaps the elections will show.