National

BJP ropes in star campaigners for Modi-less Gujarat

Virendra Pandit Gandhinagar | Updated on January 08, 2018

Sushma Swaraj, Adityanath to lead the pack next week

From 2002 to 2014, then Chief Minister Narendra Modi dominated the political scene in Gujarat — the lone star of his government as well as the BJP. No other leader, including former Deputy PM LK Advani, Lok Sabha MP from Gandhinagar, mattered.

Even those who visited and campaigned in the State did so under Modi’s Hercules-like shadow.

Following Modi’s move to Delhi in May 2014, Gujarat has seen two ‘weak’ Chief Ministers in Anandiben Patel and Vijay Rupani. The voter base that the BJP had cultivated carefully over the years suddenly began to crack, with its most vocal, influential and resourceful component, the Patidars (Patels), leading the pack.

Gradually, the Dalits, OBCs, SCs, STs and other sections of the electorate also threatened to turn anti-BJP.

Neither Anandiben nor Rupani could arrest this inevitable slide, despite the BJP trying to put up a brave face in the months leading to the first post-Modi election, slated for December 2017.

Recent setback

So, even though the BJP is contesting the elections under the overall leadership of its two old war horses — Modi and party president Amit Shah — it is leaving nothing to chance.

It lost considerable face and confidence after Congress veteran Ahmed Patel managed to return to the Rajya Sabha in the teeth of stiff opposition put up by Shah a couple of months go.

That it no longer wants to depend on its old “Vibrant Gujarat” or “Gujarat model” slogans became clear when the BJP revived the Gaurav Yatras for the first time after 2002.

Shah launched the first phase of the yatra from Karamsad, the birthplace of Sardar Patel, on October 1, and handed over its command to Deputy CM Nitin Patel to take it through 76 Vidhan Sabha constituencies.

Its second phase was launched by State BJP president Jitu Vaghani from Porbandar on October 2, to pass through 73 Assembly segments.

But both the yatras evoked poor public response at many places. Back at the drawing board, the BJP quickly roped in Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adiyanath and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as star campaigners to spruce up the campaign.

Fresh from his Kerala campaign, Adityanath will lead the yatras in south and north Gujarat on October 13 and 14.

Swaraj will address a meeting of the BJP’s women’s cell in Ahmedabad on October 14. With Anandiben by her side, she will encourage the party’s women workers to fan out to every nook and corner of the State and apprise people of the achievements of the government, said Jyotiben Pandya, president of BJP Mahila Morcha.

Meanwhile, Modi will return here on October 7 on a two-day visit. He will go to his home town of Vadnagar in Mehsana district and also Bharuch district to participate in a number of public events.

Congress yatra

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will also resume his Navsarjan Yatra in central Gujarat from October 9 to 12. Leaders of other parties — the AAP, NCP and Janata Dal (Sharad) — will also descend on the poll-bound State shortly.

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Published on October 05, 2017
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