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Exclusive! Congress is in awe of Modi, says Jaitley

Last updated on: December 10, 2012 12:24 IST

Exclusive! I see clear mandate for Modi, says Jaitley

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Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, one of the few Bhartiya Janta Party leaders who get along well with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, feels confident about the party forming the next government in the state. While speaking to Sheela Bhatt about Modi and the Congress's media strategy, Jaitley deliberately and subtly downplays Modi's projection as a prime ministerial candidate and the BJP leaders' endorsements of Modi for the top job as if it is a routine affair.

Jaitley's take on the Gujarat assembly election 2012

I see a clear and decisive mandate for the BJP and Narendra Modi. This election is predominantly contested on two issues. The BJP has a popular and very acceptable leader in Narendra Modi in Gujarat. His stature is taller than anybody else's in the state. As against him the Congress has a complete vacuum in terms of leadership. Modi has the image of an honest administrator who is reformist and development-oriented. He is seen as somebody who takes decisions.

Gujarat Election Coverage | Check out the Rediff forecast

In terms of industry Gujarat has always been good, it has picked up in agriculture and has got novel social welfare schemes. Second, its performance is noteworthy. Unquestionably, it is rated as a high-performing government. The benchmarks on growth it is setting are internationally comparable.

Coupled with this is the national political environment where the Congress is running a failed government at the Centre. It's rudderless, leaderless and indecisive. Its reforms are a burden on the common man. Its image is soiled in corruption. If you take these factors cumulatively, it is certain that the BJP and Modi will have a decisive mandate in their favour.

On Modi's defensive election strategy

Once you establish local leadership and leaders who have won several elections, they need not be changed. You can change some of the MLAs where the winnability factor is less. When the party is expected to win there are many aspirants. There will be some dissatisfaction. I think the mass rebellion on the ground is in the Congress. It's in a very bad shape.

As far as crowds are concerned, the major crowd is attracted to Modi's meetings. He has six to seven meetings every day. He continuously draws unprecedented crowds. I don't want to comment on (Gujarat Parivartan Party chief) Keshubhai Patel. He has been a much respected leader of the BJP. I have personal respect for him. Since he has chosen to lead the new party he is our political opponent now.

Of course he has the right to ask for votes for his party. The electorate is very intelligent. They never waste their support. They never show a preference for the spoilers. The voter always wants to elect a government or defeat a government. There is very little place for spoilers in an election.

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Image: Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley at a function in Ahmedabad
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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'The Congress is ducking the campaign'

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On the Congress's impressive media campaign...

Not in the least! The Congress's campaign (with the theme line 'We will change the direction and affairs of the state') lacks seriousness and substance. In 2002 and 2007, on the secular plank, which was a pseudo-secular plank according to me, the Congress ran intense anti-Modi personalised campaigns. It didn't work. Having built the tempo over it for 10 years they don't know what direction they should adopt in 2012.

This time around what all they say doesn't have political substance. All they are doing is giving some figures, which have no basis, so that they can puncture or adversely impact the BJP's campaign. It will not cut ice.

(Congress president) Sonia Gandhi said in South Gujarat that the state has grown, but we also have a share in it. Later, in her second visit, she said Gujarat has not grown. 'The Gujarat growth story is fake'. I think, she had two different speechwriters for two different speeches and therefore one speech was de-linked from the other.

Political leaders always market political campaigns. The Congress doesn't want to risk any central or state leaders in front of Modi. This is the first campaign in the history of the Indian National Congress which does not have a Gandhi family photograph on its advertisements. It has hired paid brand ambassadors (like actress Tulika Patel).

Now, brand ambassadors are hired to sell shampoos, oils and soaps, but not to market ideology, programmes. Models can't pitch for future leadership.

Since the Congress wants to duck the contest with Modi, it is laying down new rules. The brand ambassador (Tulika Patel) is not going to be the Congress chief minister, so they are ducking the campaign. The Congress is in awe of Narendra Modi. They don't want to put up anybody to contest his public image. Such a defensive campaign will never work.

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Image: The Congress's media campaign will not cut ice, feels Arun Jaitley
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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'Modi will get more seats than last time'

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Will less than 110 seats be an embarrassment for Modi?

I think this talk of 105 or 125 seats out of 182 is showing that the Congress is conceding defeat. I think Modi is certainly going to improve his performance over the last time (117 seats). I think he will get more seats on the issue of his performance, image, leadership, decisiveness and growth of the state.

Today, Gujarat is the hot flavour of the world, forget India. We will do extremely well in Gujarat.

Why no Muslim candidate?

To whom you give tickets depends on the candidate's winnable factors.

We have shown in the past that we have fielded Muslims in municipalities and panchayats and they have done well. Hopefully, one day the situation will come when we will give them greater representation as we do in several other states.

Will the doors of New Delhi open soon for Modi?

This decision will be taken by the party. What happens in New Delhi can't be decided in the course of an interview! He has a very big stature. The party will decide what happens in the future at an appropriate stage.

Is Modi's image of 'prime ministerial candidate' helping?

Gujarati voters have many good reasons to vote for Modi.

Just as Modi is proud of Gujarat and Gujaratis, I am sure the people here are proud of him.

On Sushma Swaraj's endorsement of Modi's credentials to be PM...

I read that party leaders and colleagues are all saying good things about their own party leader. It's always a good thing to praise your own leaders.

 


Image: Narendra Modi addressing a rally in Gujarat's Narmada district
Photographs: Courtesy: Narendra Modi's website

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