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The Rediff Special/ Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad
In Modi land, Congress decides to fight fire with fire
November 26, 2007
The Gujarat elections are hotting up. Chief Minister Narendra Modi will address his first election rally on Tuesday at 11 am in Botad in Bhavnagar, the constituency of Saurab Dalal, his confidant and his power and industries minister.
It was Dalal who has implemented the the Bharatiya Janata Party government's ambitious Jyotigram scheme to supply 24-hour electricity to village homes.
On the other side, to the surprise of many, the Congress is not shying away from issues either -- perhaps for the first time -- and has already moved the party infrastructure in place.
Thus, Gujarat is all set to witness one of the most aggressive elections in a decade. As Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh told rediff.com: "This will be a no-holds-barred elections. We will not spare any effort to defeat Modi. We are not afraid of his fake Hindutva stance."
The Congress's readiness is a challenging element for many in Gandhinagar and interestingly, it has helped some anti-Modi candidates get tickets. Modi had planned to drop more than one-third of his 127 party MLAs. But the election has become so challenging that a proud Modi succumbed and softened his stand against his adversaries within the party.
The 2007 Gujarat elections are not about secularism, nor is it about development. It's turning into the great psy-war where the Congress is trying hard to paint Modi as a megalomaniac, arrogant and autocrat leader who is bluffing all the time about his success on the development and security fronts.
But the Congress is playing a riskier game, of negating Modi's claims.
The BJP, which is banking on Modi's image, is manipulating sensitive issues through the prism of his image. The party is brand-building Modi's leadership by giving sharply focused, uncomplicated and personalised advertisements in newspapers and on television. The theme is Jitega Gujarat (Gujarat will win). Indirectly, their not-so-democratic message is, 'Modi is Gujarat and Gujarat is Modi'.
Modhavadia adds, "In the advertisements Modi talks about Afzal Guru's pending death sentence. But who released Azhar Masood, the key instigator in the Parliament attack? His party leader Jaswant Singh took a chartered flight with Rs 500 crore, along with Masood and two other terrorists, to release them in Kandahar. How come Modi has forgotten that?"
Congress sources in Ahmedabad claim party president Sonia Gandhi [Images] and general secretary Rahul Gandhi [Images] have surprised the local leadership by giving time, attention and money like never before.
In the last eight weeks the BJP sent more than 25 senior leaders into thousands of villages across the state. More than 10,000 people have been contacted and a first-hand assessment was made of the party's chances in the election.
Modhavadia also concedes this point.
"We believe that Modi is behind Godhra and Akshardham. But while alleging that, we will have to make sure that there is no backlash from Hindus. We have no doubt that we will expose Modi's pseudo-Hindu face."
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