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BJP urges Hindu voters to turn out in strength
Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad |
December 12, 2002 03:41 IST
With just a day to go for the Gujarat assembly election, the Bharatiya Janata Party worked aggressively on a single-point programme: get more Hindus to the polling booths on Thursday, if possible before noon.
Wednesday's papers in Gujarat's premier city Ahmedabad were full of forceful messages urging voters to turn out in strength. The advertisements carried pictures of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani, caretaker Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and former chief minister Keshubhai Patel. The punch line: "100% polling, 100% security and development."
On Monday, Modi, addressing a rally in his constituency Maninagar, took pains to request the audience to vote because "election is the festival of democracy".
What has got the BJP worried is the large numbers of weddings scheduled to be conducted in the state on Thursday. Like elsewhere in India Gujaratis are a very social community and the tradition is that weddings and funerals are not to be missed.
Modi knows this only too well. So as a solution, he coined this slogan: Pahela matdaan, pachi kanyadaan (first the ballot, then the wedding). And he told the women present at the rally, "Please paste a message in your home that pahela matdaan pachi jalpaan (voting first, breakfast next)."
BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley told reporters on Tuesday, "To know our results, multiply the voting percentage by two!" Meaning, if the turnout is 50 per cent the BJP will get 100 seats, and if it touches 60 per cent, 120.
According to a top source in the party, this 'seedho hisab' (plain calculation) has percolated to the booth level and BJP workers have discreetly planned a strategy to crowd the booth with 'loyal' voters before noon. This, they hope, will discourage Muslim voters in 'mixed' localities.
Defending this strategy, a BJP politician explained, "The Congress has made unprecedented arrangements to mobilise Muslims and get maximum Muslim votes, so we are trying the opposite!"
In addition, the BJP will publish an emotional advertisement on Thursday, which will not mention Godhra but say, 'Aye mere vatan ke logon, zara yaad karo voh kurbani.'
The BJP's focus on pushing up the voting percentage has been so sharp that tape-recorded messages played in hundreds of homes of Ahmedabad asking people to vote. Shreyata Soni, a college girl who received the message, told rediff.com, "The message prompted us to vote BJP and I think it was an effective message."
But the most controversial event of the week has been the so-called fatwa issued by some obscure Uttar Pradesh-based All-India Ulema Council. The 'appeal', printed in the December 5 edition of Gujarat Today, a newspaper read mostly by Gujarati Muslims, asked people to vote for the Congress. The appeal was promptly reprinted in mainstream Gujarati newspapers by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and wrongly dubbed a fatwa.
It seems to have done the trick at least for some. "On reading the VHP advertisement, a Bengali babu in my neighbourhood told me that now we will have to vote," said Pankaj Mudholkar, vice-president, Grey Worldwide, who lives in the posh Drive-in area.