Gujarat BJP drops Vikas mantra as monsoon exposes state's poor infrastructure

Virendra Pandit Gandhinagar | Updated on January 10, 2018 Published on September 06, 2017


Suddenly, the BJP, in its strongest fortress of Gujarat, apparently, finds itself hoist with its own petard!

For, never has the word vikas (development) irritated the ruling BJP in Gujarat as much over the last 19 years as it does now. In fact, Narendra Modi, both as Gujarat Chief Minister and Prime Minister, spread the mantra of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (Support from All, Development for All) across India and his party never tired of chanting it anywhere, anytime.

No longer. In fact, the Gujarat BJP now appears to be trying to wriggle out of the quagmire woven around this very word. The heavy downpour of August has washed away the BJP’s 'Vibrant Gujarat' claims and turned movement on roads and highways, even in the state’s financial capital of Ahmedabad, into a nightmare. The bumpy roads have become the butt of jokes, prompting the irate victims of civic apathy question the 'Gujarat model' and the 'Vikas mantra' the BJP has been parroting for ages.

Apparently, a cautious Modi stopped addressing the crowds with the word mitron (friends) when it evoked derisive laughter after he announced demonetisation on November 8, 2016. Now, another of his pet words, vikas, has come under the scanner, even turning out to be a new irritant for his own party, which is getting dressed up for the crucial Assembly polls scheduled in less than four months.

In the last one week, dozens of social media groups have made their annoyance flood cyberspace. One such viral message is Aadha rejo, vikas gando thayo chhe, (Beware, vikas (development) has gone crazy!). This and similar messages, shared across the state, have mocked the BJP and its government no end. Vikas is the latest headache for the BJP and the Vijay Rupani Government and the irate public are making fun of the claims of the ruling party.

So irate are the people about the poor infrastructure that they tore out the faces of Rupani and Deputy CM Nitin Patel from some banners and posters put up by the BJP at Jasdan, Rajkot district, when President Ram Nath Kovind visited it on Monday to inaugurate an irrigation scheme.

No doubt Rupani himself camped in the flood-affected areas of North Gujarat in early August to lead the relief efforts from the front in knee-deep waters. This, at a time when the local Congress MLAs had been flown to a 5-star resort near Bengaluru in the run-up to the Rajya Sabha elections. The BJP also tried to cash in on the absence of these Congress MLAs, charging them with leaving their voters in the lurch.

The poor state of infrastructure, exposed by the recent rains, and the death of around 350 people due to swine flu and other vector-borne diseases in the monsoon this year, has put paid to the BJP’s efforts to focus on the impending polls. Until about a month ago, the Congress appeared in disarray; no longer. Until about a month ago, the BJP seemed invincible; no longer.

With cyberspace flooded with anti-BJP messages, the Congress has suddenly discovered indirect support from social media warriors expressing anti-cumbency sentiments. And the BJP, self-assured of winning 150-plus seats in the 182-strong Vidhan Sabha after the multiple agitations fizzled out, suddenly looks vulnerable. It now depends entirely on Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah to shore up its fortunes.

That the BJP is mighty annoyed about Vikas taking a toll on its credibility and nerve became clear when it suspended for six years Karshan Karmur, a BJP councilor from Jamnagar, for “anti-party” activities when he forwarded a message with the vikas phrase on his Facebook profile last month. But this only triggered an onslaught of multiple memes poking fun at the BJP, at a time when it is preparing to launch its Adikham Gujarat (Resolute Gujarat) campaign next week.

Reacting to a spate of jokes doing the rounds, Gujarat BJP spokesman Bharat Pandya, while narrating a long list of his party’s achievements in the state and at the Centre, tried to put up a brave face when he claimed that it is not Vikas but Vipaksh (Opposition) that has gone crazy. He claimed the content and memes on social media were the handiwork of the Congress, adding the people have experienced development over the last 20 years and this ‘propaganda’ will not succeed. He even said Vikas will now go ‘crazier’ and stormier!

On the other hand, Gujarat Congress spokesman Kailash Gadhvi mocked the BJP’s Vikas mantra, saying it now stood thoroughly “exposed” before the people.

Meanwhile, the ‘unattached’ Vaghela group of former Congress leaders has launched a 'Jan Vikalpa' (People’s Alternative) campaign with hoardings, a website and a membership drive to attract those not supporting either the BJP or the Congress.

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Published on September 06, 2017
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