Probably, this was the last grand show – of power, strength and mass support that Arun Jaitly had been eagerly waiting for to crack his entrance test for a seat in the forthcoming Lok Sabha examination. If he wins, he would owe it to Narendra Modi, who after a whirlwind rally in Varanasi and didn’t disappoint Jaitley and his supporters in Amritsar on April 25, evening.
The bonus of the trip was the prime minister’s step-brother Daljeet Singh Kohli joining the BJP with a warm hug from Modi on the dais in the presence of Jaitley and Punjab chief minister, Prakash Singh Badal. That must have come as a major embarrassment for Manmohan Singh who had recently said in Guwahati that there was no Modi wave in the country little realising that it was sweeping away his own family.
The moment Modi hugged Kohli, a wave of confidence could be seen amongst the party workers and public in general, as they raised thundering slogans in joy hailing Modi – sending out a message “Ab ki baar, Modi sarkaar” (This time Modi government).
It was an outright Modi affair in the Holy city of Amritsar – one of the most high profile and high security constituencies of the country. The city of Golden Temple – Shri Harmandir Sahib offered a rousing welcome to Modi when his convoy reached Ranjit Avenue from airport in the evening.
Donning a yellow turban (saafa), a black half jacket over a high collared full-sleeve white kurta, Modi resembled a traditional Sikh. Striking an emotional chord with the people of Amritsar who had eagerly been waiting since 4 pm to hear him, Modi said, Punajb ki jawani agar nahi bachi, to Hindustan ki jawani nahi bachegi (If we can’t protect the youth of Punjab, the youth of India can’t be saved). “We now need a PM, who can display such a strong conviction like Modi. After a long time we’re able to see a ray of hope in him, who will be able to take tough decisions for our country,” shared a group of youth, who came to attend the meeting from Batala.
“For us its first-of-its kind in the city and the gathering proves the immense popularity and trust that Modi enjoys among masses. Even PM’s brother couldn’t keep himself away from Modi ji’s charisma,” a BJP worker from neighbouring tehsil Dhariwal remarked.
A group of people savouring jalebi and gulab jaamun at a shop in Katra Ahluwalia – one of the oldest bazaars’ in Amritsar said, “We can’t again let the UPA come to power. The need of the hour is to have a strong leader at the Centre, who can’t take the country on the path of development, rather than indulging only in corruption.”
On way back home from the Modi’s meet, an unanimous opinion emerged as people from different cross-section of the society remarked that Modi’s visit would definitely give Jaitley an edge over his opponent from Congress Captain Amarinder Singh. “This ‘maharaja’ tag of Amarinder creates a distance between him and the voters, and moreover before casting vote a voter should consider what the 10-year of the UPA government has given us – corruption, scams and a silent PM. The need of the hour is development that would ensure growth not only of India but Punjab as well,” said 65-year old Harish Mahajan, a city businessman, who came to hear Modi.
The very next day Congress candidate Captain Amarinder Singh addressed a press conference and had a road show with Surjeet Singh Kohli, another half-brother of Manmohan Singh and real brother of Daljit Singh. But the move didn’t cut ice.
The statement of Daljeet Singh Kohli –“I’ll accept whatever responsibility will be given to me by the party. My family is with me. The PM wasn’t given full authority to run the government”– was another feather in the cap of Narendra Modi in Amritsar, as he was successful in winning over the PM’s brother on his side. Especially, when Kohli remained apolitical throughout Manmohan Singh’s two-term tenure as PM. Undoubtedly, it is a shot in the arm for BJP, which will keep the party high till the last vote is cast. But, till then for the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (SAD-BJP) alliance, it’s a battle half won in Punjab. The rest the nation would come to know on May 16.
-Debobrat Ghose, a Delhi-based journalist, who writes on various national issues and specialises in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh