New Delhi: Election fever in poll-bound Gujarat goes up with every passing day. This time, Gujarat polls are completely different from 2007 when Congress failed to counter Hindutva factor effectively and tasted defeat. This time it is Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s persona which the opposition Congress finds difficult to defeat.
Congress is fighting against the cult of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Congress has to beat the resurgent wave of the CM’s popularity in the state to survive.
The war of words between Congress leaders and the BJP leaders including Chief Minister Narendra Modi is hogging the limelight. After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accusing Modi government of not providing security to minorities in the state, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi too launched a scathing attack against Modi calling him a ‘marketeer’ who indulged in a "false propaganda". He claimed that whatever success story Gujarat had was due to its people, not Modi.
Rebutting the charges that minorities were feeling insecure in BJP-ruled Gujarat since 1995, Modi accused Congress of playing vote bank politics in the name of the minority community.
The ground reality
According to few media reports, except in central Gujarat and some part of north Gujarat, Hindutva issue is almost absent in the polls. In Saurashtra and Kutch, people are not talking about Hindutva. But in urban areas, the issue of Hindutva still seems to be alive.
In Surat, the second largest city in Gujarat, people are talking anti-Muslim. But is it a Hindutava wave or just some sentiments? Here, it is necessary to make a distinction between anti-Muslim feelings and a Hindutva upsurge. It might be called as the Surat syndrome.
In reports, it has been said that 89.1 percent Hindus in the state (according to 2011 census) have no need to feel threatened by the 9.1 percent Muslims, in fact, they need to feel threatened by people who believe a dead cow is more valuable than five living Dalits.
Moreover, for Modi, this assembly poll is not just about winning the trust of six crore Gujaratis, if he wins the polls, it will pave his way for BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate for 2014 Lak Sabha polls.
Modi, who is eyeing third consecutive term at the helm in Gujarat, appeared to have scored over his opponents by addressing people through 3-D technology. He is contesting from Ahmedabad’s Maninagar seat which will go to poll on December 17. In 2007, he defeated the Congress candidate Dinsha Patel, now Union Minister for Mines, by around 75,000 votes. This time, the Congress has fielded suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s wife Shweta Bhatt from Maninagar.
A total of 1,666 candidates are in the fray for 182-member Gujarat Legislative Assembly. While the ruling BJP has fielded candidates on all the 182 Assembly constituencies, the Opposition Congress has given tickets to 181 candidates in alliance with the NCP.
A total of 87 constituencies spread over 15 districts from Saurashtra and south regions of the state will go to polls on December 13. Political fate of 846 candidates including 46 women will be decided on Thursday. In the first phase, the BJP is contesting all 87 seats followed by the Congress (84), the Gujarat Parivartan Party of former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel (83) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (79). There are 383 independent candidates in the fray.
The second phase will be held on December 17. Counting of votes is slated for December 20.