Business Standard

Gujarat polls: Struggling with narrative, BJP pins hopes on PM Modi

Ruling party seems to be on a sticky wicket in terms of the political narrative in the state

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

Narendra Modi, Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Rahul, Rajnath Singh, Rajnath
Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre), Home Minister Rajnath Singh (left) and Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi at the Parliament House in New Delhi. (File photo)

With his international travel commitments taken care of and his government ensuring there would be no winter session of the Parliament for another three weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unencumbered enough to launch a blitzkrieg of a campaign in The PM is expected to address a rally in each of the 33 districts of from now to December 12, the last day of campaigning for the second phase of polling.

on December 9 and 14. Both the and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are busy finalizing their list of candidates for the 89 of the 182-seats that poll in the first phase. These seats are in the Saurashtra-Kutch and South regions. The lists are likely to be announced by Thursday evening.

However, the is on a sticky wicket in terms of the political narrative in the state. For once, the election strategy in had become defensive. Until now, it has relied on the to make a mistake. Unfortunately for the BJP, that hasn’t happened. Whatever the eventual results, political observers in the state say the campaign has seldom been run as efficiently since 2002.

Vice President has shown consistency in attacking the and the Modi government on economic issues, and how the model of is a “hoax”. He has studiously avoided engaging the on emotive issues of nationalism and religion. He has resisted from indulging in calling the PM names. The leader has also respected the religious sentiments of the Hindus in by visiting temples often.

If the top leadership believed the common Gujarati would get upset by the playing “caste politics” by aligning with Patidar leader and Dalit leader and inducting OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, that is yet to come about. The support to the is being driven by anger towards the The government has announced sundry sops before the Election Commission announced poll dates. The Modi government has tried to reach out to the business community by lowering rates on key items, but has finally reached the conclusion only Modi himself could save the party from an embarrassing result.

Of the five standalone campaign videos posted on the BJP's accounts, four talk about Modi. The party has attached the #ModiCheNe hashtag to the videos which say 'Modi che ne, safe che' (Modi is there, is safe). The PM may or may not be able to lead the party to victory, but the state of affairs has already put a question mark on party chief Amit Shah’s ability to lead

Until August, elections were supposed to be a walk in the park for the BJP, which Shah was expected to single-handedly deliver to the PM. It would have vindicated Shah after Anandiben Patel was unceremoniously forced out of the chief ministerial chair, and Vijay Rupani, considered close to Shah, installed.

In August, after his win in the Rajya Sabha polls and quitting his assembly seat, the chief had announced that the party’s campaign would rest on three planks – government’s ‘garib kalyan, or the welfare of the poor, its outreach to OBC (Other Backward Classes) and delivering the Narmada waters to water-scarce areas. The started with organizing district level meetings on these three issues but soon discovered poor resonance for any of the three among the people. The attendance at these meeting was bad. The party also had to face the wrath of Dalit, Patidar and Thakor youths.

The then switched to it’s tried and tested ‘vikas’, or plank. Here again, it failed to strike a chord. The business community had been reeling because of the twin blows of and GST, and conveyed its anger. Apart from the Congress, activist groups and former chief minister Suresh Mehta-led Lokshahi Bachao Andolan, save democracy movement, have also reached out to the people to “sensitise” them how most of the claims on ‘development’ were ‘false’, how the Narmada waters were yet to reach farmers and there were increasing number of farmer suicides, while the successive governments have failed to deliver on ‘garib kalyan. Senior leader Yashwant Sinha has also contributed his bit by speaking against Modi government’s economic policies in

The now needs to heavily rely on the PM. Its social media campaign betrays that. It is a crucial battle for Modi and Shah to win. If they lose Gujarat, considered to be their citadel, it would be a huge blow to their ambition to lead to an encore in the

First Published: Wed, November 15 2017. 14:31 IST