‘I am Vikas’: BJP’s response to ‘Vikas has gone mad’ campaign in Gujarat
Yatra route and social media campaign around Development is the BJP's mantra of going counter offensive in Gujarat
When in doubt, take out a Yatra. This seems to be the BJP’s default response whenever it is pushed to a corner. And this is precisely what the party has decided to do in Gujarat, where a surprisingly aggressive Congress has put it on the backfoot with a witty social media campaign and party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s successful visit to Saurashtra.
BJP has launched a counter move with a two phased “Gujarat Gaurav Yatra' and the social media campaign under the tag line 'Hu Vikas chhu' (I am Vikas aka development) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its face.
But the question remains whether this Gujarat Gaurav Yatra can match the outcome of a similar initiative undertaken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his role of Gujarat Chief Minister in 2002. Modi had gone on to register a landslide victory for the BJP in 2002 elections that were held in a communally polarised atmosphere following the Godhra train burning incident and the subequent anti Muslim pogrom in the state.
It was Union minister Piyush Goyal and state BJP president Jitu Vaghani who spelt out the details on the proposed Gujarat Gaurav Yatra throuh two 'Raths'. The BJP plans to cover 149 of the 182 assembly constituencies through this yatra. The party leaders including BJP's national president Amit Shah will be addressing the people at 150 places along the route.
The state has been divided into four zones for this 15 day Yatra campaign. In the first phase the Yatra will begin on October 1 from Karamsad, the birth place of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. It will cover central Gujarat and conclude at Khambat. On October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the second Rath would be flagged off from Porbandar which is the birth place of Gandhi. It will cover various parts of Saurashtra before concluding at Dwarka.
The Yatra covering north Gujarat would be flagged off from Khambat on October 8 and would conclude at Mandvi in Kutch. For south Gujarat, the Yatra would be flagged off from Rajpipla on October 11 and would conclude at Jambusar. The two Raths would eventually converge at the state capital of Gandhinagar.
“Gujarat Gaurav Yatra will highlight visible and quantifiable development done in 22 years of BJP's rule in Gujarat, in which 6.5 crore Gujaratis take pride,” said Goyal.
Meanwhile Vaghani said that development has been BJP's matra for the last two decades and the party does not believe in any form of a negative campaign. “Development under Modi's leadership will be the core of our campaign,” he said.
Will it work?
Observers underline that Yatra needs to be seen from two perspectives. The first is whether the state leadership under Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and the BJP president Vaghani manages to draw crowds and what kind of reception they get in the rural heartland. With people agitated over increasing inflation, the farmers' issues, the misery brought about by demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), they are surely going to have a tough time addressing the masses. “This will present a clear picture on their reach among the masses. Their last few initiatives at public outreach did not get the desired response,” pointed a senior media person based in Ahmedabad.
The second aspect that needs to be analysed is the comparison of this Gujarat Gaurav Yatra with the one undertaken by Modi in 2002. Modi's Yatra is still remembered for its communal tone with the electorate talking in terms of 'us and them'. People still remember how he used to invoke 'Miyan Musharraf' at any given opportunity while referring to the Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf. He would also say that there would be celebrations in Pakistan if his opponents won.
“This time they plan to talk of development. It remains to be seen whether it is the issue of development or communal hatred during Modi's Yatra that gets more response in Gujarat,” quipped a political observer.
Meanwhile, in response to the “Vikas ganda thayo chhe' (Vikas aka development has gone berserk) campaign of its opponents, the BJP has unleashed a series of videos under the tagline 'Hu chhu Vikas' (I am Vikas).
The first video talks about the overall development in Gujarat. The narrative begins with, “I am a land irrigated by the thoughts of Gandhi and Sardar. I gave Modi to the country. I am development. I am Gujarat.” Thereafter it talks of the heritage city of Ahmedabad and various initiatives under the BJP regime like Annapurna Yojana. It also talks of the Narmada project and other indicators of development before ending with the schedule of the Gujarat Gaurav Yatra.
Then there are a series of small videos on various issues. There is one showing a girl talking about Gujarat producing more doctors and engineers along with more universities coming up ever since Modi came.
Then there is another one which shows a man saying that people never had enough when others ruled the state. The income, bank accounts and investments went up with Modi coming in.
There is yet another on how people, particularly the rural habitants started getting 24 hours supply of power since Modi came into 'power' in Gujarat.
With the second phase of Rahul Gandhi's Gujarat campaign coinciding with BJP's Gujarat Gaurav Yatra, the heat is surely going to pick up in the campaign by both the parties by the middle of October, thus casting the die for a high pitched electoral battle.