Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
Though the caretaker Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, insisted during the release of the Bharatiya Janata Party's manifesto on Sunday afternoon that Godhra would not be an election issue, the advertisement campaign lined up by the party paints a different picture.
All advertisements and placards will carry the face of Modi, who is the copywriter too. For television channels, three commercials of 30 seconds each have been prepared.
In one of the ads a sentence that reads 'Godhra, February 27, 7.43 am' passes from one end of the dark screen to another. The sound effect is stunning: shrieks of passengers in flames and gunshots.
Another commercial has bells chiming in a temple. However, sounds of gunshots and screams of women and children shatter the peace. A poser follows: "Who can be our saviour?" And the answer: Aapno hitrakshak Narendra Modi! [The protector of our interests is Modi]. The caretaker CM's picture follows that of a lotus, which is the BJP's poll symbol.
The third commercial talks of terrorism. There is a scale and on the one side is a Kalashnikov rifle, an acid bulb and a knife. A hand appears on the screen and places a lotus on the other end, and the balance shifts.
The BJP's national convenor and in-charge of the media cell, Amitabh Sinha, says: "We have dwelt on three issues while planning the media campaign. We will tell the voters of Gujarat that only we can crush terrorism. We will support our claim by projecting the leader who has the clarity on this vital issue. Modi knows how to deal with the people involved in terrorist activities.
"Another important poll plank is the issue of the pride of Gujaratis. We will run a series on it in the print media. Our Gujarat Gaurav series will establish how the opposition parties have run down Gujaratis by portraying them as a bunch of violent people."
The BJP will even go back in history and revive the images of Mahatma Gandhi's Dandi March, which was undertaken against the British.
BJP media planners claim that the advertisements will prove through statistics that there is nothing shameful in being a Gujarati
"The Gujaratis are paying the highest taxes; they are toppers in the list of economic achievers and their per capita income is something to be proud of," he adds.
Sinha is unperturbed by the killings of Muslims in the aftermath of the Godhra carnage. "Not at all! There are no regrets. Our stand is that whatever happened after Godhra was unfortunate and it could have been avoided if political parties had condemned it as strongly as they condemned Akshardham."
The BJP also plans to talk about development. The party claims that it has diverted the waters of Narmada river from south Gujarat to Saurshtra through canals and pipelines.
It is something that the Centre wants to implement across the nation.
Thanks to the BJP, the waters of the Narmada flow into the Sabarmati and Mahi basins, claims the propaganda material.
"BJP harnewali party nahin [BJP is not party to lose]. We will prove it by winning Gujarat. We will arrest the sliding graph of the BJP," claims Sinha.
In Gujarat the reach of local cable networks is more than that of Zee [TV], Aaj Tak [TV] or Star [TV]. The BJP will show Modi-centric advertisements only on the local cable channels like Alpha TV and Etv, and the State-run Doordarshan.
On December 2 the BJP will launch its latest interactive Web site related to Gujarat. It also plans to make the Web site devoted to Narendra Modi more vibrant.
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