Saroj Sharma in Gandhinagar
WITH barely a week left for the Gujarat Assembly elections, Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s juggernaut seems unstoppable, decimating any opposition it encounters on its path to a sure hat trick win in the state.
When, and not if, the Gujarat CM romps home to victory, he would have made history as the longest serving CM of the country’s most developed state.
To give credit to the Gujarat CM, Modiji’s campaign has been a finely calibrated one, designed to strike a chord and connect with the BJP’s mass following in the state. The campaign has also been designed to woo the growing population of youth in the state. In this context, the BJP’s month long Vivekananda Yuva Vikas Morcha yatra has been an astounding success attracting a groundswell of people wherever it went. “Wherever Modiji went, the response to his yatra was overwhelming,” reveals a BJP state unit leader. The tech-savvy CM’s latest initiative to connect with voters through simultaneously beaming of his speeches making effective and intelligent use of 3D technology has also been a huge hit specially with young voters.
But while Modiji’s victory in the forthcoming elections is a foregone conclusion for political observers who have been studying his spectacular innings over the decade that he’s been at the helm of Gujarat’s polity, what does come as a surprise is the fact that with each successive tenure, there is a complete lack of any credible opposition.
Take, for instance, the state of disarray of the state unit of the Congress party. Bereft of strong leadership, the Congress has always been a house divided with petty personal ambitions of its state leaders sabotaging its chances of presenting a cohesive, viable alternative. A flashback to circa 2007 shows the desperate Congress President Sonia Gandhi coin her infamous “maut ke saudagar” sobriquet for the Gujarat CM- a term which cost the Congress the elections five years ago.
Quite clearly, the party does not seem to have learnt any lessons since then and its armoury seems devoid of any weapons with which to dent the popularity of the Gujarat CM. The choice of candidates itself is a clear indication that the Congress has no game plan for the Gujarat elections. Picking up a political greenhorn like Shweta Bhatt, whose only claim to fame is the fact that she is the spouse of Gujarat’s most controversial IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt to contest against the CM directly from the Maninagar constituency shows the bankruptcy of leaders in the Congress stable. Shweta Bhatt’s damsel-in-distress and wronged homemaker act is unlikely to cut any ice with women voters who constitute a chunk of Modiji’s mass following. Obviously, the Congress camps are oblivious to the fact that the thrifty Gujarati woman voter is a politically enlightened, discerning, shrewd and intelligent voter who is difficult to fool. Few of them, if any, are likely to forgive or forget Sanjeev Bhatt’s unfounded allegations of the Modi government’s alleged role in the 2002 Godhra riots. The fact that his spouse has been chosen to contest the elections only gives credence to the theory which has been doing the rounds that Bhatt is a Congress stooge who has been shadow boxing for the party in Gujarat in a bid to keep the memory of the riots alive.
As for its remaining motley bunch of spent forces like Shankarsinh Vaghela, Arjun Modhwadia and its Shaktisinh Gohil, none of them has the qualities to emerge as a worthy contender for a Colossus like Modiji. What has made matters worse for the Congress is the interference of the party’s high command in the affairs of the state unit which, this time round, has cost them the loss of one of their most visible faces – former Deputy Chief Minister Narhari Amin. A popular grassroots worker and sports enthusiast who had a long innings at the helm of the Gujarat Cricket Association, Amin has chosen to sever his ties with the Congress after more than 20 years, disgruntled at being ignored by the Congress High Command during ticket distribution. Accusing the Congress leadership of ignoring senior leaders of the party, Amin has thrown his weight behind Modiji and has joined the BJP along with hundreds of his grassroots workers and supporters from the Congress camp. Observers feel Amin’s crossover would only serve to highlight the bankruptcy of leadership in the Congress rank and file.
That’s not the only factor which is likely to swing votes in favour of the BJP. Fly by night parties like former Gujarat CM Keshubhai Patel’s freshly minted Gujarat Parivartan Party, a rag tag bunch of disgruntled septuagenarians, and national parties like the BSP, JD(U) and NCP which are fielding contestants are also unlikely to dent the ruling BJP’s vote bank. In fact, observers feel that the presence of so many inconsequential parties in the fray would only convince the electorate that their main agenda is to play game spoilers and vote stealers and this is likely to consolidate the vote bank again in favour of the ruling BJP.
Pertinently, it's not only a bankruptcy of leadership which is afflicting the Congress in Gujarat but a bankruptcy of ideas as well. Small wonder then that it's election manifesto reads like a me-too of the Sankalp Patra presented by Modiji a few days ago. From low cost housing to employment generation for women and youth to electricity generation and provision of safe drinking water, the Congress election manifesto is almost a photocopy of the BJP’s poll manifesto.
Given the scenario, the writing on the wall is there for all to see. December 20 will give Modiji’s BJP government a thumping mandate to lead Gujarat to even greater heights of prosperity and development over the next five years.