BJP Back To Tricks As Vikas Loses Lustre
Development (Vikas), the mascot of the BJP in the last two state Assembly elections in Gujarat may well find itself relegated to the background as the ruling party falls back on it’s old, tried and tested formula of tarring it’s opponents and dividing the opposition as it’s recipe for clinching the 2017 elections.
The first indication of things to come emerged from the BJP political manoeuvre to defeat Ahmed Patel, political advisor to Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi in the august Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections.
With the Election Commission announcing the polls in Gujarat, the ruling party demonstrated it’s intent to carry the narrative of targeting Patel further. The state chief minister Vijay Rupani, at a hurriedly called media conference sought to link Patel’s name to the arrest of a lab technician who had worked in a well known hospital in Ankleshwar, on suspicion of being an ISIS operative. Hospital sources said that Ahmed Patel was a trustee of the hospital but had quit after the UPA lost power. None of the other trustees, most of them hindus and still on the board of the hospital found mention. The Narendra Modi led NDA has been in power at the centre for over three years now. The suspected technician joined the Ankleshwar hospital six months ago and put in his papers on October 4, this year.
Quite clearly, the BJP seems intent on using Ahmed’s name, his religion and his standing in the top Congress hierarchy to draw political inferences as part of a larger electoral strategy for the Gujarat polls. This was clear when Rupani sought Patel’s resignation from the Rajya Sabha and urged Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to come clean on the issue with a statement. Simultaneously union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi sought a similar clarification from Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.”Congress has a history of favouring anti-national elements and soon people will say” Congress ka hath atank ke sath”(The Congress hand in support of terrorism),Naqvi briefed the media in Delhi. The intent was clear.
A similar strategy had been used by the BJP after the 2002 Godhra train carnage and statewide communal riots to pressurize the then chief election commissioner J.M.Lyngdoh to give in to the demand for state Assembly elections. Modi had then taken out a statewide ‘Gaurav yatra”(glory march) which would heap abuse on Pakistani President Musharraf but the target of his ire were nearer home.
BJP leaders including the then chief minister would refer to the CEC in his speeches by his full name, James Michael Lyngdoh to infer that he was a Christian who sought to favour fellow Christian Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Needless to say the elections were held disregarding the advice of the then state IB chief R.B.Shreekumar and Modi returned to power with a bulldozer margin in a polarized Gujarat.
That the BJP intends to fall back on the tried and tested again this time is also visible from it’s revival of the ‘Gaurav yatra’ which was taken out throughout the state but received a very lukewarm response. BJP has been in power in Gujarat for over 20 years and with it’s own chief minister now the NDA prime minister for 3 years it can no longer blame the UPA - led centre for injustice to the state as it did then. Vikas or development, the BJP’s poll mascot in all elections, has also lost it’s lustre after it became the butt of jokes on the social media platform. Taglines symbolizing vikas as a person ’Vikas gando thayo chhe’ and ‘mara beta chettri gaya’ (vikas has gone insane and we got cheated)) went viral. The BJP has yet to come up with an effective counter.
With the Congress gaining traction as exemplified by the enthusiastic response to Rahul Gandhi’s poll foray’s in Gujarat and the trio of Gujarat rebels Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mewani whose support base is rooted in their communities-patels,OBCs and dalits- finding Congress a natural ally, the BJP is in deep waters. Thakore has already joined the Congress and the communities of the three can influence the results in 100 of the total 182 seats of the Gujarat Assembly.
Thus the BJP arsenal to combat the congress in the ensuing polls entails dividing the opposition votes and use of the carrot, the stick, the tarring of key opponents and polarization to achieve it.
Rebel Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela has already tied up with an existing Rajasthan political entity to put up candidates on all the 182 seats,the Aam Admi Party(AAP) has announced it’s first list of candidates and more will follow while Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD-U has already made clear a similar intent.NCP may follow suit as well.
Modi during his last Gujarat visit dangled the carrot enumerating the advantages of having same party government both at the centre and in the state. He also wielded the stick the same day when he said that those opposed to development will not get a single rupee from the centre. He has often named the Congress as anti-development. The implication was obvious if the state chose to vote, other than the BJP.
As contesting political entities line up at the starting point, the ensuing Gujarat elections holds promise of being a no-holds barred slugfest.