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Gujarat polls: BJP upbeat
Sunil Gatade in New Delhi | October 15, 2006 18:16 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party is confident that Narendra Modi will pull off a victory in next year's Gujarat assembly polls after becoming the first party chief minister to complete five consecutive years in office.
The BJP's confidence, though, has not cut much ice with the Congress, which feels the situation in the state has changed significantly since 2002.
BJP leaders claim Modi's rout of the Congress challenge in the local body elections some months ago was proof of which way the winds are blowing in the western state.
But Congressmen disagree, saying there were other reasons for the rout and things have been changing for the better for their party as the people of Gujarat are increasingly becoming "fed up" with Modi's style of functioning.
State Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki said the party will give Modi a run for his money at a time when he is facing criticism for his handling of floods in the state as well as a controversial anti-conversion bill.
AICC general secretary B K Hariprasad said, "We are trying to bring the party back on track to take on Modi and it will emerge stronger in 2007."
The assembly polls are scheduled for the end of next year.
BJP leaders, however, argue Gujarat has been a citadel of their party and Modi has emerged an icon of Hindutva who has endeared himself to the people through his clean and efficient administration and developmental work.
Despite the BJP's projection of Modi as an icon of development, Congress leaders allege that Gujarat has slipped to the eighth position in attracting foreign direct investment notwithstanding the bluster of the state government.
The BJP is projecting that it is roses all the way for Modi, but Solanki, who is also an MP, said, "If that was the case, why did the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce President Pankaj Patel along with several of his colleagues pay a visit to the PCC headquarters in Ahmedabad only a fortnight back?"
Modi's supporters say that the Congress has given up hopes of the party's revival in Gujarat and the chief minister has earned the kudos of the people for effectively countering the "anti-Narmada agitation".
But Congress leaders dismiss this, saying people are very upset over Modi's "failure" to tackle the situation in the wake of recent floods, which according to the state government's claims, resulted in losses to the tune of Rs 22,000 crore.
"Modi and BJP will see the undercurrent when the elections come," said a Congress leader.
BJP leaders say their party's tally in the 182-member assembly will increase from the current number of 127.
Congressmen, on the other hand, feel their numbers will grow substantially from the current 51 as they will mount a subtle but effective campaign from early next year to bring Modi into the "reactive" mode.
Congress leaders said Modi and the BJP should not forget that in the Lok Sabha polls in 2004, their party had taken the lead in 91 constituencies.
Supporters of Modi say his leadership skills and the success of his strategy has been witnessed several times and his tough stand against terrorism has paid dividends.
His critics feel Modi will make attempts to polarise the society this time too like he did before the 2002 polls. The difference this time is that the government at the Centre is not led by the BJP.A senior Congress leader said the coming elections were easy for neither his party nor the BJP as Modi is not enjoying the earlier charisma.