Overview: Polls may be trendsetter | india | Hindustan Times
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Overview: Polls may be trendsetter

Many observers see the poll as an indicator as to whether India will retain its secular heritage or succumb to divisive machinations.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2002 20:01 IST

Come December 12 and the riot-torn Gujarat would do what its now-famous or rather infamous chief minister Narendra Modi desperately wanted it to do much earlier, in September or October itself.

It will vote; not only to choose a new 182-member assembly but also to pronounce verdict on Modi alias Chhote Sardar -- the new-age pracharak turned-BJP mascot, who is also called 'butcher' by many for his role in post-Godhra massacre of thousands of Muslims.

As a typical test-case for Hindutva -- considering it is known as a laboratory of Hindutva, Gujarat election is far bigger an event than merely a traditional Congress-BJP or Modi- Shankar Sinh Vaghela contest per se. The counting of votes on December 15 is set to make one and mar another, for years to come.

Many observers even see the poll outcome as an indicator as to whether India will retain its secular heritage or succumb to divisive machinations.

WRITING ON THE WALL

Two recent surveys, conducted by ORG-marg and Zee news respectively, have predicted a BJP victory, but with a narrow margin only as one expected just a few months ago. Observers, however, say the contest is keen despite shrilly Hindutva cry.

Even BJP seems no longer as confident as when Modi dissolved the assembly. The reason -- the party's electoral setback in Jammu, growing criticism of Vajpayee government by RSS-VHP and other allies, and the UP rebellion.

The BJP was actually on a decline not very long before Godhra (Feb 27, 2002). In the Sept 2000 panchayat polls, BJP lost 23 of 25 district panchayats and majority of taluk panchayats. Earlier it had control of 24 district panchayats. Then BJP lost three of the five Lok Sabha seats in 1999 by-polls. Even Modi won Rajkot-II seat with just the margin the party had won earlier in 2000. That is the reason he has shifted to Maninagar seat this time, just in case…

The Congress, by appointing Vaghela as its chief, has made the contest all the more interesting, if the fierce rivalry between him and Modi is to go by. Further the power tussle between ex-CM Keshubhai and Modi is also no secret, and may play a role in the poll.