Gujarat polls: Narendra Modi has outmanoeuvred Rahul Gandhi by framing narrative in emotive pitch
As an unusually high- pitched campaigning for the Gujarat elections ended Tuesday, diehard RSS, VHP and other Hindutva group leaders and activists have reason to smile. Their long-cherished dream of making India a Hindu Rashtra may never be fulfilled but their other cherished idea of “great Hindu Revival” has seems to have begun from the western Indian state which houses Somnath and Dwarka.
As an unusually high-pitched campaigning for the Gujarat elections ended Tuesday, diehard RSS, VHP and other Hindutva group leaders and activists have reason to smile. Their long-cherished dream of making India a Hindu Rashtra may never be fulfilled but their other cherished idea of “great Hindu Revival” has seems to have begun from the western Indian state which houses Somnath and Dwarka.
No other state Assembly election, at least in past several decades, saw the kind of Hindu identification focussed beginning and end of campaigning as has been seen Gujarat. On last day of campaign, Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi sought blessings from Hindu deity Jagannath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered an elaborate puja at Ambaji Temple to seek blessing from the deity. Modi’s Hindutva identification is no big news: He was always taken to be a man who personified Hindutva and for close to two decades his “Hindu Hriday Samrat” identification was idolised and vilified with equal ferocity.
Rahul began this election with soft-Hindutva push and ended it by engaging in competitive Hindutva with Narendra Modi and the BJP. He not just visited over two dozen prominent Hindu temples but also actively wooed support from the Patidar community, the biggest proponents of Hindutva in the state.
It is noteworthy that he didn’t visit one single mosque or allow any prominent Muslim leader to share the dais with him. Even NGOs which would keep on talking about justice for 2002 riot victims and Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Kausar Bi and Ishrat Jahan have gone on silent mode.
What makes the scenario most interesting is the fact that a statement being attributed to Veer Savarkar is being referred to senior BJP leaders and party sympathisers in context of Rahul’s new found faith in Hindu temples and his transformation into “not just a Hindu but a janeu dhari (bearer of sacred thread, twice-born upper caste Brahmin) Hindu”.
They say Veer Savarkar, a staunch Hindu nationalist of pre-Independence ears predicted that a time would come when Hindus would unite and Hindutva becomes mainstream and that would force forcing even Congress leaders to start wearing Janeu over their coats to get Hindu votes.
A top BJP leader told Firstpost Rahul Gandhi has done a great service to Savarkar’s soul by making latter’s prediction come true in letter and spirit.
Senior BJP leader Balbir Punj tweeted:
@sgurumurthy @somkritya Gujarat is special. It gave Mahatma, Sardar and Modi who transformed India in their own way. Now it has transformed RG . He has changed into Janneu Dhari Hindu from someone who raised the bogey of Hindu terror. Salute to Gujarat.
— Balbir Punj (@balbirpunj) November 30, 2017
If Rahul’s idea was to make a dent in “Hindu” votes was by projecting Hindu image for self and his party, a negation from the past, Modi’s idea was to play on son of soil’s pride and Gujarati asmita. Thanks to former Union minister and suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s "neech aadmi" comment against Modi, the prime minister got a much needed opportunity to launch a bitter offensive against Congress, alleging Sonia Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders had called him names earlier as well. BJP president Amit Shah also tweeted:
Yamraj Maut Ka Saudagar Ravan Gandi Nali Ka Keeda Monkey Rabies Victim Virus Bhasmasur Gangu Teli Goon These are some words or phrases Congress has used for PM @narendramodi in the past. Not much has changed. We wish them well. We will continue to serve 125 crore Indians. — Amit Shah (@AmitShah) December 7, 2017
Modi then dug out alleged tweets from Salman Nizami, a youth Congress leader who was apparently campaigning in Gujarat and who purportedly used most venomous language against him and Indian Army.
Modi took the poll narrative to entirely different emotive pitch where his pride and Gujarati sub-nationalism pride should outweigh everything else. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, and former vice-president Hamid Ansari meeting with former Pakistan foreign minister and Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi at Mani Shankar Aiyar's residence last Wednesday presented yet another opportunity for Modi to charge that Pakistan was trying to influence Gujarat election to make a leader favourable to them, Ahmed Patel, as chief minister.
While what occurred in the meetings will continue to be debated in media and academic circles, Modi succeeded in making it emotive in Gujarat. Manmohan Singh and Hamid Ansari may or may not have discussed Gujarat with Pakistani leader and diplomat but the fact that they timed their meeting at such a moment, when the heat of Gujarat elections were on, more so at residence of Mani Shankar Aiyar, who, on a visit to Pakistan, said that Modi needs to be removed from the prime minister's post to improve bilateral relations between the two countries, sowed seeds of doubt in the minds of the public.
In the end, Modi proved smarter, by making a sea plane land on Sabarmati River front in Ahmedabad. It must be noted creation of a scenic Sabarmati river front was Modi’s pet project, showcasing his developmental initiative and vision.
Modi became first prime minister to board a sea plane and take a flight for darshan of Goddess Ambaji. He wanted to create a big spectacle and make that a talking point of development and initiative and he succeeded in ending his election campaign on that note.
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