The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Modi slap in master’s face
Modi: Lone ranger

Oct. 15: The Sangh’s fallen poster boy has shown he doesn’t need its famed poll machine ' at least not in Ahmedabad.

Narendra Modi today led the BJP to a spectacular victory in the Ahmedabad municipal elections, with the party winning 96 of the 129 wards. The BJP wrested the corporation from the Congress but at stake was more than a municipal corporation for Modi.

The victory came in the face of an ill-concealed cold war between the RSS and Modi, prompting the VHP, which holds considerable clout in Gujarat, to distance itself from the elections.

Relations between Modi, who became the undeclared mascot of Sangh hardliners after the Gujarat riots, and the parent organisation had taken a knock after Modi ordered a crackdown on a farmers’ front demanding rollback of power tariff.

Modi’s move to back Advani in the standoff with the Sangh exacerbated the rift, which reached a flashpoint last week when some offices of the VHP were raided in Gujarat after some pamphlets against the chief minister surfaced.

The civic polls, the significance of which is usually confined to local issues, this time attracted interest because the BJP has been banking on the organisational muscle of the Sangh to win elections.

Both the RSS and the VHP have been holding up the manpower and machinery as a lifeline that can be squeezed if the BJP strays too far from the prescribed path.

In the civic elections, Modi has disproved them. With dissidents snapping at his heels, Modi took unusual interest in the corporation race, holding roadshows, visiting some wards as many as three times and converting the local poll into a “mini-referendum” on his governance.

A large part of Advani’s Gandhinagar parliamentary constituency falls within Ahmedabad. The BJP won 39 of the 48 wards in Advani’s constituency and 13 of the 15 in Maninagar, Modi’s seat.

After taking a customary swipe at Sonia Gandhi today, Modi could not resist rubbing salt into the wounds of adversaries both at home and outside.

“The lotus blooms in mud. So I thank them also for throwing so much mud and helping us win,” Modi said without mentioning any names.

He said the result was a “loss to Sonia Gandhi as her close aide Ahmed Patel had camped in the city to ensure victory for their party”.

A section of BJP leaders in Delhi, however, cautioned against reading too much into the Ahmedabad outcome. Modi is popular in urban areas and the VHP’s support is not crucial for a victory there, they said.

The real test, the central leaders said, would come later this month when panchayat elections are scheduled. The anti-Modi farmers’ front has a decisive say in the rural areas.

They added that though the RSS did not campaign actively for the BJP, the parent did not sabotage the party’s prospects either.

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