National

Yogi, Sushma to add spice to BJP's Gujarat campaign

Gandhinagar | Updated on January 08, 2018 Published on October 05, 2017

From 2002 to 2014, when Narendra Modi strode like a colossus on the political horizon of Gujarat, he was the Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its government in the state. No other leader, including former Deputy PM LK Advani, Lok Sabha MP from Gandhinagar, mattered. Even those who visited and campaigned in the elections, did so under Modi’s Hercules-like shadow.

Then, in May 2014, he relocated to New Delhi as the Prime Minister. And Gujarat saw two ‘weak’ Chief Ministers in the space of nearly two years. The reason: the voter base the BJP had created so 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, the OBCs, the SCs, the STs, and other sections of the electorate also threatened to turn anti-BJP. Neither Anandiben Patel nor Vijay Rupani have been able to arrest this inevitable slide, despite the BJP trying to put up a brave face in the months leading to the first post-Modi election, scheduled to be held by December 2017.

In particular, the saffron cookie began to crumble after the August-September monsoon downpour washed away the state’s roads and highways at many places and its 15-year-old slogan of Vikas (Development) became the butt of jokes, going viral on the social media. A panicked BJP, no longer as sure of itself as before, then tried to return to its old tricks of Hindutva et al.

So, even though the BJP is contesting the elections under the overall leadership of its two ‘old’ war horses — Modi and Amit Shah — the saffron party is leaving nothing to chance and firing on all cylinders at a time when its declared target of winning at least 150 out of 182 may be hanging like a millstone around its own neck. It lost considerable face and confidence after Congress veteran Ahmed Patel managed to return to the Rajya Sabha in the face of stiff opposition put up directly 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 Gujarat Gaurav Yatras for the first time after 2002. Amit Shah launched its first phase 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 areas. Its second phase was launched by state BJP President Jitu Vaghani from Porbandar on October 2, to pass through 73 Assembly segments.

But both these Yatras have evoked a poor public response at many places. This seems to be the reason why the BJP has decided to go back to the drawing board and rope in Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adiyanath and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as star campaigners, to add some spice to its otherwise lacklustre election campaign.

The Yogi, the new saffron mascot, fresh from his forays in Kerala this week, will lead the Yatras in South and North Gujarat on October 13 and 14, respectively, in what is seen as the BJP’s attempts to revive the interest of indifferent people and bury any cracks in the vote bank under the carpet of Hindutva.

Swaraj will address a BJP Women’s Cell meeting in Ahmedabad on October 14. With former CM Anandiben Patel by her side, she will encourage the BJP’s women workers to fan out to every nook and corner of the state, apprise the people about the achievements of the BJP and its governments in Gujarat and at the Centre and attract the voters to the booth, Dr Jyotiben Pandya, President of BJP Mahila Morcha, said.

Meanwhile, Modi will return to the state 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 Vice-President Rahul Gandhi will also resume his “Navsarjan Yatra” in Central Gujarat districts from October 9 to 12. Leaders of other parties — the AAP, NCP and Janata Dal (Sharad) — will also descend on the poll-bound state soon.

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Published on October 05, 2017
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