Will Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Attacks on Congress Help BJP in Gujarat?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in all the four of his rallies, took pains to describe how the Congress was not just anti-Gujarat, but how Gujaratis - right from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to Morarji Desai - were not given their due by the Congress party.
PM Narendra Modi addresses a rally in Gujarat. (Photo: Twitter/BJP)
Ahmedabad: While campaigning for the Gujarat Assembly elections in 2012, then chief minister Narendra Modi made a startling allegation against the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre.
He claimed that they was on the verge of giving away the Sir Creek, a tidal estuary on the border between India and Pakistan in Kutch district, to Pakistan. He even wrote a letter to then prime minister Manmohan Singh just a day before voting.
PMO issued a strong rebuttal to Modi’s letter, calling his claims “unsubstantiated”, “untrue” and “mischievous”, but the damage had been done.
The 2012 Gujarat assembly elections were not just won convincingly, it paved the way for Modi to position himself as the tallest BJP leader to take on the then UPA government as the country headed for general elections in 2014.
Now, the BJP is in power both in the Centre and Gujarat. It has been in power for three-and-a-half years at the centre and for 22 years in Gujarat. The question now is whether it is politically beneficial for Modi to play victim under the changed circumstances?
Sample this statement in Modi’s first election rally at Bhuj on Monday. “I am the son of this soil. The people of Gujarat have moulded me into what I am today. I will never forget this. But look at the kind of attacks that are being made against me. The people of Gujarat will not forgive those who are maligning my name by going to each and every corner of Gujarat.”
The Prime Minister, in all his rallies on Monday, took pains to describe how the Congress was not just anti-Gujarat, but how Gujaratis - right from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to Morarji Desai - were not given their due by the Congress party. Mixing the two potentially emotive issues of nationalism and Gujarati pride, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his campaign in Gujarat on Monday with election rallies in Saurashtra and South Gujarat – the two regions which go to polls in the first phase of the assembly election next month.
Political observer Hemantkumar Shah believes the narrative of the Prime Minister’s speeches have changed because the BJP is now in power in both Gujarat as well as at the centre. “But more importantly, I believe the issues raised by him are not striking a chord with the people because he has been talking about Nehru and Sardar Patel and incidents that are decades old,” Shah told CNN-News18.
According to Shah, the question of accountability over demonetisation, GST and other basic issues ought to have been addressed by the Prime Minister, instead of talking about how Congress governments have been unfair to Gujarat and Gujaratis.
Apart from this, during his rally in Jasdan in Rajkot, Modi claimed that the Congress was behind the downfall of four Patidar chief ministers in the state, from Babubhai Jashbhai Patel to Aanadiben Patel.
However, senior journalist Hari Desai told CNN-News18, “Babubhai Jashbhai Patel’s government did not fall because of the Congress. Two Jan Sangh MLAs defected, triggering off the collapse of that government.”
He added that it is strange, but the Prime Minister’s rallies had no mention of issues faced by Gujarat. “He has been talking of Nehru and Sardar Patel and about Pakistan and China. These clearly are not issues that people of Gujarat are faced with even as elections are to be held,” he contended.
Modi as the chief minister of Gujarat played the victim card to the hilt. That was the part of the political narrative he assiduously built around his persona. The chaiwala, the outsider who is up against the Lutyen's elite seamlessly fits into the discourse.
The narrative worked very well when Modi was the challenger. The question now is will it work for Modi and BJP after more than two decades in power in Gujarat and three-and-a-half years in Delhi.
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