National

Modi@66: birthday boy in poll mode

| Updated on: Sep 15, 2016
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Prime Minister has a packed schedule in Gujarat visit beginning today

Amid political fires raging across Gujarat, which faces Assembly elections next year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be on a two-day tour in his home State from Friday, his second visit within 20 days, to celebrate his 66th birthday.

At a function in Jamnagar district on August 30, he had assured that he would henceforth be more available to the people of Gujarat. Although that visit happened soon after the State was rocked by multiple agitations and change of guard, he did not discuss those issue, and revived the development mantra instead.

The latest visit — ostensibly in connection with his September 17 birthday — comes at a time when the month-old Vijay Rupani government is struggling to deal with major agitations launched by the Patels (Patidars), the OBCs and the Dalits, among others.

On September 9, Rupani and BJP president Amit Shah had to cut short their speeches in Surat when agitated Patidar youths created a ruckus, and even “beheaded” a cutout of Shah.

A couple of days later, Rupani faced the Patidar music in Bhavnagar. A number of Patel ministers have already been declared persona non-grata by supporters of reservation quota leader Hardik Patel.

After virtually sacking Anandiben Patel as CM last month, and seeing the Surat fiasco, the BJP is looking afresh at options to woo back the influential Patels.

But given Shah’s recent run-in with the Patidars, the BJP is shying away from organising a meeting of the PM with the angry community in his upcoming visit.

Deluge of cards At the same time, the OBCs, fearing a dent in their quota pie with the Patels demanding a chunk, have threatened to send lakhs of postcards to Modi. The Dalits have decided to send postcards, writing “ Badboo Gujarat Ki ” (Stench of Gujarat), to Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, brand ambassador of Gujarat tourism who led the “ Khushboo Gujarat Ki ” (Fragrance of Gujarat) campaign to woo tourists in recent years.

Hindutva and the development agenda had pushed under the carpet the social tensions of Gujarat since the 1990s. But, post-Modi, the State is witnessing a revival of caste differences in the open, hence pushing Modi to revive the development mantra minus Hindutva.

The BJP, which has been in power continuously since 1995 — except for the Shankarsinh Vaghela interregnum of two years in the late 1990s — is mighty worried over this erosion in support base as the State heads to Assembly elections in 2017.

Cleaning spree The party is launching a three-day “Cleanliness Drive” from tomorrow to mark the PM’s birthday. Beyond this, it does not seem to know how to restitch its frayed support base into a winning combination for 2017.

Official sources said the PM will arrive at Ahmedabad late on Friday evening to attend a number of functions on Saturday. On Saturday morning, he will visit his younger brother Pankaj’s residence here to meet his nonagenarian mother Hiraba to seek her blessings.

Thereafter, Modi will meet Chief Minister Rupani, other ministers and BJP leaders at Raj Bhavan. At 11.20 am, he will leave by helicopter for Limkheda in the tribal district of Dahod in eastern Gujarat to inaugurate an irrigation scheme and address a public meeting.

At 1.45 pm he will leave for Navsari in south Gujarat to interact with differently abled people and distribute aid. From Navsari, he will leave by helicopter for Surat airport to catch an IAF flight to New Delhi at 5.25 pm.

Published on January 16, 2018

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