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Home > News > PTI

'Gujarat polls a referendum on Modi'

November 22, 2007 16:31 IST

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It is the wish of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi that the December elections should be a referendum on 'him' and the issue of development, according to Modi's political science teacher and a well-known political commentator.

The two-phased assembly elections in Gujarat are a 'plebiscite' on his rule as the issues this time are totally different from the one in the 2003, fought in the shadow of Godhra train attack and the carnage that followed it, said Professor Pravin Sheth, a former Head of Department of Political Science, Gujarat University.

The issue in the 2002 assembly elections was 'Hindutva' while it is 'development' in the coming elections to be held on December 11 and 16 for a new assembly with 182-members, Seth told PTI in Ahmedabad on Thursday.

A well-known columnist in language newspapers and author of Caste and Communal Time Bomb and Images of Transformation: Government and Narendra Modi, Sheth, who also happened to be political science teacher of the controversial chief minister, said as against the last elections, the current polls will be fought on the issue of 'development.'

'It is a kind of plebiscite where people will exercise their opinion on the performance of Modi. Hindutva does not seem to be an issue this time. The chief minister claims that his government has done exceptional work during his six years of rule and the Congress on the other hand calls it just hype and nothing else,' he opined.

Sheth, who is now settled in the United States and is a visiting faculty in universities in the state, said Modi 'indirectly acknowledged' in a telephone conversation with him that 'Hindutva' will not be the main issue.

"Modi says that he wants people to judge him on his work in the last six years. He says that during his tenure the state has seen unprecedented growth on all fronts and that if there is any other candidate in the BJP or in the opposition who is more capable than him, he is ready to make way for him," Sheth said.

"The chief minister wants the 2007 elections to be a plebiscite on development and himself," he added.

Questioned about the impact the rebellion in the ruling BJP will have on the party's bid to return to power, Seth said it did not look to cause any major damage. The politically-influential Patel community will not go all out against him because of the pressure being exerted by their NRI relatives to vote for Modi, he claimed.

Taking his argument further in this direction, Sheth said that despite the rebels organising a series of massive farmers rally throughout the state, ultimately their movement against Modi somewhat 'fizzled' out, which was indicated by their joining the Congress sans any supporters.

The Congress has given tickets to as many as six BJP rebels, prominent being Dhirubhai Gajera, which has caused a lot of heartburn amongst Congress workers, claimed Sheth.

On the other hand, the BJP has given tickets to a lot of Patel and Koli community members in the first and second lists for the first phase of elections to be held on December 11 in Kutch, Saurashtra and South Gujarat regions, Sheth said.

He was of the view that as most of the rebel leaders hailed from Saurashtra, including BJP stalwart Keshubhai Patel, the ploy of giving nominations to aspirants from Patel and Koli communities and exerting pressure through NRIs on the sympathisers of rebel leaders, the BJP had to a large extent minimised the impact of the revolt.

Asked if he thought the decision of Sangh Parivar outfits of not actively campaigning for the chief minister harms his chances, the noted political commentator said that what he understood from his meetings with two leaders of saffron organisations was that they would campaign for the party.

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