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Modi vs Vaghela: War of nerves

They are referred as Tyson and Holyfield of Gujarat politics. Be it grit, wits or words, Vaghela and Modi perfectly match each other.

india Updated: Nov 25, 2002 12:02 IST

They are called the Tyson and Holyfield of Gujarat politics.

Locked in internecine duel for years, shifting from one corner to another but none of them willing to pullpunches. Both have won several rounds but none has lost the fight.

Will one of them be able to finally knock the other out in this battle of ballot. May be, may be not. Both are known for thinking the unthinkable and thus pulling surprises.

Be it their grit and determination, wits or words, jibes or jests, or the ability to fight back from the edge, Narendra Modi and Shankar Sinh Vaghelaperfectly matcheach other. Each can give the other a run for his money.

Just as Modi came from background to occupy Chief Minister's chair, unseating a seasoned Keshubhai Patel, his bete noire Vaghela bounced back from oblivion to take the centre stage in Opposition as Gujarat Congress president. Modi retaliated by dissolving the House to give least possible time for Vaghela to regroup. And when Election Commission put the spanner in the 'early poll' plan, Modi decided to set out on Gaurav Yatra.

Just as Modi rode high on Godhra-made Hindutva wave, Vaghela rose to the occasion reviving KHAM (Khashatriya, Harijan, Adiwasi, Muslim) plan.

And just when Modi thought that polarisation in Gujarat was half the battle; Vaghela shook his party out of stupor and put up impressive rallies -- to show his strength and to re-establish that a battle is not won till the last bullet is fired.

Slogans like dekho dekho kaun aaya, hinduon ka sher aaya were matched with dekho dekho kaun aaya, Modi ka baap aaya. And the BJP went into a huddle to rework their strategy. The much-touted Gaurav Yatra was postponed thrice. The pitch of Hindutva was increased further and the Yatra was finally launched as a virtual poll campaign.

As Modi's one-time compatriat, Vaghela is only too aware of his tactics besides the chinks in the enemy's armour. They were general secretary and president respectively of the Gujarat BJP from 1985 to 1990. Now facing each other as chief ministerial candidates, the battle is wide open.

First Published: Nov 23, 2002 09:30 IST