Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan “Aa Gujarat Main Banavyu Che” (I have made this Gujarat) as a part of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) campaigns for the upcoming state assembly elections is replete with deep symbolism. It not only reinforces the Gujarat model of development brought in by PM Narendra Modi during his chief ministerial stint in the state but also a telling expression of how he remains the umbilical cord between Gujarat and BJP.
Gujarat’s identity is intertwined with that of Modi. No wonder then that personal attacks on him are always punished by the voters of the state.
There is an uncanny similarity between the 2022 and 2007 Assembly elections of Gujarat. Then Chief Minister Narendra Modi was called “Maut Ka Saudagar ” by then Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the election turned on its head with the Modi led Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) winning it big. Since then, political parties have refrained from making personal attacks on Narendra Modi.
Then came bureaucrat turned politician Mani Shankar Aiyar who called Modi “Neech” and the narrative of 2014 General Elections changed. Narendra Modi led BJP not only won the elections, it pushed Congress to the side lines of Indian politics.
Gopal Italia, the president of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s Gujarat unit had made certain uncharitable and derogatory remarks against Hira Ba the mother of the Prime Minister (PM). Italia has also made objectionable comments against PM Modi by calling him “Neech”. BJP was quick to seize it and launch an all-out attack on AAP and its Gujarat unit chief though the latter tried to brush it aside by calling the purported videos as old ones.
Despite AAP trying hard to explain Italia’s comments, BJP’s well-oiled poll machinery took it to voters who detest anything against Narendra bhai as he is affectionately called by most Gujaratis. For them Narendra Bhai stands as the tallest icon of Gujarati identity and anything said against him sounds as death knell to the opponents.
BJP’s Gujarat campaign is revolving around PM Modi as he is the biggest face for the party in Gujarat. His connection with the Gujarati populace is phenomenal. When PM Modi blessed newly-weds in Bhavnagar in early November, Congress and AAP scoffed at him and termed it as a gimmick. The ground situation however, is in stark contrast to what the opponents say about “Brand Modi”.
PM Modi’s personal connect with the people of Gujarat could be seen the way he reaches out to them. As per the BJP’s poll strategy, Modi will be launching a door-t-door campaign by handing over voters’ slips to people on November 28-29 and on December 2 and 3. Till then he would have addressed 8 big political rallies in the state. The inherent message behind this strategy is to present Modi as the son of the soil who is always approachable.
BJP poll strategists have not forgotten the 99 seats that it had got in 2017 assembly elections. It was PM Modi who had pulled BJP out of the morass and ensured victory. BJP had started working on those 83 seats that it had lost in 2017. Strengths and weaknesses were identified to wean over voters who had moved away from the party fold. Having won over the toughest battle in 2017, the BJP is now eying a two-third majority riding on the popularity and the personal connect of the PM.
BJP has not forgotten the political impact the 2017 Gujarat verdict had on Congress. The grand old party had won Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan decisively and wafer- thin majority in Madhya Pradesh. Congress saw it as signs of its revival before 2019 Lok Sabha elections but that was not the case as BJP not only managed to reverse the trend, it won all seats in Gujarat and Rajasthan, lost one seat to Congress out of 29 and 3 in Chhattisgarh out of 11.
BJP’s poll strategy in Gujarat is aimed at handing over a comprehensive defeat to Congress and AAP and add impetus to its 2024 national elections.
Recent pre-poll surveys conducted by various agencies have given a clear edge to the BJP with some of them predicting the ruling party crossing 50 percent mark in the vote share. These surveys could not have come at a better time for the BJP. It has managed to galvanise its workers and party functionaries as it perceives a bigger victory in 2022 Gujarat elections since it wrested power from the Congress 27 years ago.
Gujarat has been the laboratory of BJP in launching its policies that revolves around the notion of “Justice to all and Appeasement to none”. BJP leadership has been hammering across this avowed policy election after election. Opposition has failed in denting brand Modi in Gujarat stopping his political juggernaut. While BJP has been successful in not only securing its turf, it has also managed to achieve it at Pan India level.
Its victory in Gujarat will arm the party with the much-needed ammo that it needs for the high octane 2024 General Elections.