Gujarat elections: Modi's flight in seaplane steals show on last day of campaign

Virendra Pandit Updated on January 27, 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to the crowd as he boards a seaplane on the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. - PTI

It was the first flight by a single-engine seaplane in the country

On the closing day of campaigning, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi exuded supreme confidence of victory of their respective parties in the ongoing Gujarat Vidhan Sabha polls. To make their victory sure, they also sought divine blessings, with the former flying in an amphibious seaplane to Goddess Ambaji atop a hill in North Gujarat, and the latter driving down to Lord Jagannath in Ahmedabad.

As expected, Modi virtually produced a rabbit out of the hat in his last election meeting on Monday night, disclosing he would be flying in a seaplane from the Sabarmati riverfront to the famous Ambaji Temple. It was a closely-guarded secret not known even to the state BJP leadership.

On Tuesday morning, the seaplane, piloted by a Japanese, landed near Sardar Bridge on the Sabarmati River, from where the Prime Minister took off for Dhorai dam in Mehsana district. He then went to the Ambaji Temple by road to pay obeisance and seek divine blessings. He has been virtually writing off the Congress from the political map of Gujarat.

The 13th century Ambaji Temple, atop the Aravalli Range, falls in the Danta (ST) Assembly constituency, while the Jagannath Temple is in the Jamalpur-Khadia constituency of Ahmedabad and has a large Muslim population.

A gimmick, distraction

Barely two km from the Modi-style spectacle, Rahul Gandhi also sought the blessings of Lord Jagannath. He announced a “great tide” in favour of the Congress and predicted a zabardast (astonishing) result when counting of votes takes place on December 18. He later described the seaplane event as a “gimmick and a distraction” to camouflage the real issues bogging down the BJP, which appeared “panicked” due to the exposure of Modi’s “lopsided development model” by the “robust” Congress campaigning.

Polling in the second and last phase for the remaining 93 Vidhan Sabha seats in 14 districts of North and Central Gujarat will be held at 25,575 booths on December 14. In the first phase, polling was held for 89 seats on December 9. Campaigning came to an end on Tuesday at 1700 hours.

In early 2014, veteran BJP leader L. K. Advani had praised Modi as a “great event manager”. Tuesday’s seaplane mega-show was an example of this event management as thousands of curious people gathered, amid chanting of “Modi, Modi” by frenzied BJP workers, to witness the spectacle mounted by Modi that seemed to overshadow all other issues at stake in the election.

The single-engine seaplane, having a capacity for 14 passengers, was purported to be the first of its kind in India, brought to Gujarat ostensibly to promote tourism. The small plane needs no runway and can land on flat roads and still waters.

The BJP claimed that, for the first time in India, a seaplane will be used for tourism promotion and that a PM was flying in a single-engine aircraft. Sambit Patra, BJP spokesman, described the event as “Vikas Flying” in an apparent answer to critics who dubbed Vikas as having gone berserk.

Published on December 12, 2017