Through Modi's two-day visit to Gujarat, BJP tries to conveys 'all is well'
'All is well' – that is what the BJP and its poster boy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, wanted to convey to their political rivals through the latter's two-day visit to his home state of Gujarat.
Modi spent his time attending events and programmes organised in southern Gujarat, and in Botad in Saurashtra, in the company of the state's top BJP leadership, including Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and former Chief Minister Anandiben Patel.
Through Modi's visit, the message that has been conveyed to the electorate eight months ahead of the Assembly polls is that the party's voter base remains intact, and that it will go into battle once again with Modi as its face.
Surat the focal point
Modi's visit to Surat was marked by an impressive roadshow, which was, in fact, the BJP's show of strength in the Diamond City. Observers feel that the venue for the roadshow was strategically chosen by the BJP.
Surat has been the theatre of the Patel unrest over the last couple of years. It is the stronghold of Patidar leader Hardik Patel. It happens to be the same city where BJP president Amit Shah was booed at a public platform some months ago.
Modi also inaugurated the Kiran Hospital built by members of the Patidar community at a cost of Rs 500 crore. Through and the roadshow, the message was clear – the BJP's support base among the Patels was intact.
The city had been decked up for Modi's visit with illuminations and huge cut outs of the PM. The trouble it caused the common man because of traffic snarls didn't matter to the organisers and the state government. Surat residents have been complaining about erratic power supply right from the day the city was illuminated to host Modi.
Modi also inaugurated a diamond unit at Ichhapore on Monday. This is seen as a further attempt to woo the Patels, particularly those from the politically influential Saurashtra region, who have borne the brunt of Modi's demonetisation drive. A large number of workers in the diamond units had lost their jobs and had returned home.
Describing the Patels as 'sons of the soil', Modi praised their enterprise to become multi-millionaires. He went on to praise them for their donations for social causes, and said their urge to give back to the society was inspirational.
He cleverly linked their aspirations to his forthcoming visit to Israel, and said he would go there as a representative of Surat diamantaires. Sources say that Surat's diamond cutting and polishing industry gets annual orders to the tune of more than Rs 15,000 crore from Israel.
In a deft move to counter attempts being made by the Congress to woo back its support base of tribals in southern Gujarat, the BJP got Modi to address the tribals in neighbouring Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and to inaugurate a cattle feed plant in Bajipura village in the tribal district of Tapi.
He later went on to Botad in Saurashtra to inaugurate the first phase of the second link of the Saurashtra Narmada Avataran Yojna (SAUNI) and lay the foundation stone for the second link of the scheme.
SAUNI is an entirely pipeline-based project planned on the assumption that 115 irrigation dams of all the seven districts of Saurashtra will be filled with surplus Naramda water. It was started by Modi ahead of the 2012 Assembly polls in Gujarat. His show at Botad was again an attempt to convey that the farmers are with the BJP, although there are reports of some Patels walking out when he started speaking. It is assumed that these people had deliberately come to walk out when Modi started speaking, to show their opposition to him.
Opposition to the visit
Ironically, the Varachha area of Surat that is dominated by Patels did see graffiti on the main flyover that passes through the area the day prior to the visit. The pillars of the flyover had slogans saying 'Go Back Modi', 'No Modi, Only Patidar' and 'Khajap', a play on the Hindi/Gujarati initials of the BJP (BhaJaP).
Some elements also threw ink on the posters bearing Modi's face. The authorities promptly whitewashed the walls where the slogans were written and removed the posters.
The police had also gone into an overdrive to detain people who it suspected of creating trouble. This included farmers' leader Jayesh Patel, of the South Gujarat Khedut Samaj.
“We were not planning any protest. It has become a norm that whenever the Prime Minister Chief Minister or any minister comes, we are detained without any rhyme or reason. We have decided to write to the National Human Rights Commission and take it up with the Gujarat High Court as well,” Patel told Catch.
Another farmers' leader, Sagar Rabari of the Gujarat Khedut Samaj, said: “This is neither the first time, nor is it abnormal in Gujarat. The government is so afraid of social activists that it always detains activists like me, Lakhan Musafir, Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani etc. This shows the intense fear of the people within the government. Whose orders is the 'obedient' police force following is made clear. The short-sighted political representatives, inebriated on power, are forgetting that in politics, no one is permanent. The precedent they are setting today may come to haunt them tomorrow. A popular leader lives amidst the people, unafraid to talk to them and to listen to them. The fear is due to the popularity which flows through the barrel of the gun.”
Veteran mediaperson Bashir Pathan, who has covered Gujarat for more than three decades, said: “The BJP in the state is facing heavy anti-incumbency from farmers, Dalits and Patels. Modi's visit was to dispel the notion that people from these communities have moved away from the party.”