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Gujarat elections: A political drama or melodrama

New Delhi, Mon, 31 Dec 2007 Qureish Raghib

Dec 31:  The recently concluded assembly elections in Gujarat though had predictable consequences; there had been multiple aspects that came into play to influence its outcome.

Basically it was a political fight between a national level party, the Indian National Congress and an individual, CM Narendra Modi.

It is a known fact that two major tendencies of the people of Gujarat are that of being communally sensitive and possessing natural entrepreneur instincts. Subsequently this Election was broadly based on the issues of communalism and socio-economic development.

In the 2002 Gujarat elections, the delicate issue of communalism was extensively utilised by BOTH the Congress and Modi. By doing so, the Congress played into the hands of Modi who was the architect of the communal disharmony in Gujarat and thus, lost severely.

This time round, the BJP leader was aware that the Congress would use the same old fashioned, emotive issue of communalism and therefore, sensing the pulse of the electorate, tactfully changed strategy and offered an alternate of economic and social progress to the emotionally exhausted Hindu and Muslim Gujaratis. It again worked in his favour.

What were the decisive factors that helped Narendra Modi win in Gujarat even though his shrewdly veiled communal overtones were evident?

In both the 2002 and 2007 Gujarat elections Modi was out rightly clear on pursuing his poll agenda - be it communalism in last time or social development in this election. The Congress in both the elections was not sincere to the electorate. Fearing to lose its Hindu votes it half heatedly pursued for justice for Muslim riot victims then, and this time, once again tried the carrot and stick poly for both the major communities by claiming to be secular but gave away tickets to anti-Modi dissidents well known to be active participants in the Gujarat 2002 riots.

Prior to the elections, Modi did fantastic campaigning by PERSONALLY visiting 170 odd constituencies in all parts of Gujarat and whole heartedly extended support to all BJP candidates. He related better with small crowds which were hardly of 10,000–15,000 people, gave brief 10 minutes speeches and had the right political idiom to deliver his message. Congress candidates meanwhile were mostly accompanied in their campaigns by assorted non-Gujarati Congress politicians and leaders coming from across India. Why would a Marathi leader like the Maharashtra CM be acknowledged by the rural Gujaratis for instance, with his presence in their constituency?

Apparently, the charisma factor is a phenomenal aspect in Indian politics. While Modi’s hypnotic charisma is well known, there was no leader of caliber from the Congress to counter him on this factor. The part-time presence of INC President, Sonia Gandhi, newly appointed General Secretary, Rahul Gandhi and PM Manmohan Singh in the election campaign was hardly effective except from drawing some 10 one lac plus rallies across Gujarat.

Himself a vocal Gujarati-speaking orator, Modi made sure the people of Gujarat knew he would be the CM if he was elected. The Congress on the other hand declared no one for the CM post if it won the political battle. How can an invisible leader be elected was the logical perception of the electorate. Instead, the two major Congress leaders of Gujarat who have vast support bases – Mr. Bharat Solanki and former Gujarat CM Shankersinh Vagela were confined to preparing the grounds for campaign rallies of Sonia and son Rahul Gandhi. With no effective opposition, it was cake walk for the BJP leader from the start.

Known for always coming up with innovative tactics, Modi’s publicity pundits circulated an SMS saying he had always been the CM, he is presently the CM and would continue to be the CM. ‘CM’ is for Common Man’ it read. It needs to be read that it is such type of touching campaigning that saw him through.

On the aftermath, as Chief Minister Narendra Modi took his Oath of Office, it now sees to be seen whether he will work for the economic and social well being of the 5 crore Gujaratis that he claims to represent or works in the interest of the five ‘crorepatis’ of the major industrial houses of India.

The ipso-facto is Modi had without hesitance, pursued his communal poll agenda of 2002 for five years by categorically side lining and discriminating Muslims. Ironically, if he similarly pursues his 2007 poll plank of socio-economic development, Modi would certainly be the poster-boy of not only Gujarat politics, but an iconic national leader to reckon.

As for the Congress, after the recent political debacles in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and now Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in one calendar year, the fiasco can certainly further snowball into more drawbacks in the coming elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi next year and maybe even affect the outcome of the Maharashtra and Karnataka Assembly elections in 2009.

It wouldn’t be erroneous to envisage that with Brand Modi will now enduringly be present in the national political arena, and thus, the polity and policy structure of BJP’s core leadership in Delhi may undergo major changes sooner or later as the forthcoming general elections draws near.

* The author is a commentator on socio-political issues and a freelance journalist

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January 2, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Nice analysis. keep it up



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