In poll-bound Gujarat, development, pride remain focus as Narendra Modi sets out to reassert his politics

Images of Narendra Modi getting out of his bullet-proof Range Rover SUV, walking to the gates of the school in Vadnagar where he studied during his childhood days, bending to the ground to pick the soil and salute his alma mater, will last long in the memory of the people in his hometown.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Modi couldn’t have gone to his home in Vadnagar, the place where he was born and brought up for half of his house is in a dilapidated state and in the other half of the plot stands a three-storied building that is occupied by the family which had bought that portion of land. That was the situation when this writer had visited Vadnagar. One has to pass through narrow lanes to reach Modi’s parental home. It wouldn’t have been easy for Modi to go there.

Him landing at his school, albeit only for a few moments, was perhaps the next best thing that Modi could have done to go down the memory lane. But this is election time in Gujarat and Modi's visit to his hometown couldn’t be simply taken as the prime minister's desire to re-live his past. This was for the first time when Modi had gone there as the Prime Minister of India.

The symbolism of it is, thus, hard to miss. That could have been Modi’s way of conveying to the world that no matter where he goes, no matter what he becomes and achieves, he can’t be disconnected from his roots. His heart lays there and he would do everything in his command to ensure development and prosperity of the state. His recent visits to the state including that of Saturday and Sunday were filled with official programmes, announcements of new schemes and inaugurations of all kinds of projects.

On Sunday, during his visit to Vadnagar, Modi had tweeted:

This is the first time in the last 16 years that a state election in Gujarat would be held without him being directly at the helm in the state. There can't be two opinions on the importance of the upcoming election on Modi’s aura as a leader.

6 October 2017 marked the completion of 16 years since Modi became the chief minister of Gujarat. He had been chief minister for 13 years and then achieved the unparalleled distinction of being the first politician to be declared as a prime ministerial nominee of his party then and go on to win the parliamentary election with a thumping majority. More so, he won the 2014 parliamentary election on the strength of development work that he pursued in Gujarat while being its chief minister and building a narrative around development-based politics. That way, Modi stands out from the rest of Indian politicians.

It has been a matter of pride for Gujarat and its people. Even in the 2012 Assembly election which he was contesting as the chief minister of Gujarat, there was an unmistakable buzz in the state that a vote for him was not just a vote to make his return to power in the state but also as a step forward to see him being the prime minister. In the upcoming elections, Modi may not be there as the chief minister of Gujarat but these are about his pride and BJP would like to turn these elections into an election of Gujarati pride.

No wonder Modi made the visits of Chinese and Japanese heads of state and governments as a mega event for Gujarat, showcasing the development of his home state. For the rest of the nation, he argued it well why should in a nation as diverse as India all official functions of visiting dignitaries be restricted only to the national capital.

A Gujarat BJP leader said, "Modi is our pride, he is the pride of the state. Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and Modi are three icons of Gujarat. He is our biggest strength and we would naturally make that as a talking point. He is a pioneer of development-based politics and his political journey has well and truly been remarkable. In politics, three things are important – neta kaun (who is the leader), niti kaisi (what are his policies) and niyat kaisi (how are his intentions). Modi’s name positively connotes all the three things."

The BJP campaign theme in Gujarat is going to be based on stability and strength — “Adikham Gujarat”. In response to Rahul Gandhi’s borrowed punch line "vikas pagal ho gaya hai (development has gone crazy)", the BJP during its Gujarat Gaurav Yatra came out with slogan “mujho Gujarat, mujho vikas (we are Gujarat, we are development)”. The BJP leaders are not losing their sleep over Rahul’s frequent visits to the state to kick off Congress’ electoral campaign. A party leader said, “in fact, that makes elections more interesting for us and give us more talking points in the run-up to the elections."

Modi along with BJP chief Amit Shah would be back in Ahmedabad on 17 October to mark the conclusion of Gujarat campaign and address a mega rally of “panna pramukh” (in-charge of each page of electoral roll). As per estimates of BJP leaders, it is going to be a huge gathering of party workers, a record of sorts with an expected attendance of seven lakh persons. The scale, the size, and the narrative emanating from Modi-Shah speeches would set the tone for 2017 Gujarat elections.

Updated Date: Oct 10, 2017 06:55 AM

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