After a recent failed attempt to woo the Patels by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah in Surat, it's the turn of none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit Gujarat – his home state, but this time to woo the tribals.
He has chosen to celebrate his 66th birthday in his home state. So while he choses to begin the day by visiting and seeking the blessings of his 95-year-old mother, Hiraba, at Gandhinagar, he will later meet the newly-appointed Chief Minister of Gujarat Vijay Rupani and then visit the tribal-dominated area of Limkheda to inaugurate an irrigation project. The last time the PM visited the state was to inaugurate the SAUNI project in Saurashtra. While he did face a protest from pro-Hardik supporters, it was the BJP chief who faced the heat in Surat. Chairs were hurled during the function which was officially meant for honouring the newly-appointed CM Rupani. A projected show of strength turned out to be a poor show for the BJP in the state. Gearing up for elections, the BJP is now faced with the task of wooing back the powerful Patels, the Dalits and at the same time ensure it does not lose out on its urban vote bank.
With Modi, being the PM and former Gujarat CM, dominated the state politics for over a decade, the BJP realises that it needs to keep falling back to the Modi magic if it has to retain power in the state. Whether it's the Patels in the north or the tribals in the central Gujarat, state unit of BJP knows that the only face that still makes a difference is that of Modi's. The projects that Modi will be inaugurating in Navsari or in Limkheda could be done by any state leader or the newly-appointed CM, but BJP is now fighting a battle which it can’t afford to lose. What could be a better occasion than the PM celebrating his birthday in his home state?
The tribals, including the Scheduled Tribe, that Modi is expected to address on Saturday in central and south Gujarat constitute about 14 percent of the state's population. In 2002, Congress voters did drift towards BJP but went back to the Congress in 2004 parliamentary elections.
Both Modi and the state unit of BJP are aware that every seat counts. During his last visit, the Prime Minister had announced that he will keep coming to Gujarat; and he was not wrong. So, while the official reason might be given as the celebration of his birthday, Gujarat BJP wants to ensure that the count of seats in the assembly elections does not see a dip. The state BJP at present has a strength of 117 seats. Congress might continue to be in a disarray, however, it might be a vote against the BJP rather than a vote for the Congress which the state unit of the BJP fears.