Project blitz in poll-bound Gujarat, Modi addresses large gatherings
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday inaugurated a dairy complex, laid the foundation stone of a World Health Organisation centre for traditional medicine and addressed large gatherings in Gujarat where Assembly elections are due this year-end.
Modi’s three-day official tour of his home turf has been attracting attention more for electoral reasons than the “development projects” worth Rs 20,000 crore that the Prime Minister is showering on the state.
The BJP, which has been ruling Gujarat uninterrupted since 1995, wants to leave nothing to chance, especially at a time the Aam Aadmi Party, fresh from its win in the Punjab polls, is set to spice up the impending contest in the western state that has traditionally witnessed a bipolar face-off between the BJP and the Congress.
Modi, who appears to be preparing the ground as the BJP’s chief campaigner, is on his second trip to Gujarat in less than a month. He had been to the state on a two-day visit in March whose highlights were roadshows in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar.
After inaugurating the new dairy plant in Banaskatha district on the second day of his tour on Tuesday, Modi addressed a big gathering, mostly of women associated with the milk trade. The Congress, the principal challenger to the BJP, had performed well in this north Gujarat region in the last Assembly polls and Modi’s visit was seen as an effort to turn the tide.
“In the last several years @banasdairy1969 has become a hub for empowering local communities, especially farmers and women,” Modi tweeted, stressing on “Gujarati Pride”.
In the last several years, the @banasdairy1969 has become a hub for empowering local communities, especially farmers and women. I am particularly proud of the Dairy’s innovative zeal which is seen in their various products. Their continued focus on honey is also laudatory.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 19, 2022
At the inauguration of the WHO centre for traditional medicine in Jamnagar, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth and WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus shared the stage with Modi. The BJP pointed to this to underline the global stature of a Prime Minister from Gujarat.
“The WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine is a recognition of India’s contribution and potential in this field,” Modi said.
The AAP, which had last year upstaged the Congress to emerge as the principal Opposition in the Surat Municipal Corporation, has been aggressively taking on the BJP’s claim of development in Gujarat. AAP leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, the chief minister and his deputy in Delhi, have already visited Gujarat and are scheduled to make more trips.
Despite all-out efforts by the BJP towards a “Congress mukt Bharat”, the Congress remains a force to reckon with in the home state of Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah.
In the last Assembly polls in 2017, Modi had campaigned extensively and levelled allegations of a conspiracy between the Congress and Pakistan to install a Muslim (Ahmed Patel) as chief minister to secure a narrow win for the BJP. The BJP had won only 99 of the 182 seats.
Modi had then claimed that a three-hour meeting was held at former diplomat and Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s residence in which former Vice-President Hamid Ansari, ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Pakistani high commissioner to India and a former Pakistani foreign minister were present.
The comments had created a huge uproar and then leader of the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had to tender an indirect apology in the House for Modi’s remarks, particularly against Manmohan, to calm the Opposition.
This time the BJP is eyeing a decisive victory in Gujarat and Modi’s advance visits to the state is being seen in this light. BJP leaders said the campaign would be built around Modi as new chief minister Bhupendra Patel lacked mass appeal.
The entry of the AAP has also perturbed BJP managers amid reports that the AAP was working its charm on urban voters, considered the traditional stronghold of the BJP.
While the local BJP leadership has launched myriad efforts to not allow the AAP to get a foothold in the state, the party managers feel that only Modi’s popularity can play an effective counter.