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Complete coverage: Gujarat elections 2007
This is the most one-sided election I have covered in my 28-year journalistic career, where there is no electoral issue except the incumbent chief minister who looms larger than life before the Congress's has-been and would-be small-timers. When a Tendulkar faces gali-mohalla bowlers a double century is certain.
In Gujarat, the Congress's electoral brahmastra was KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim). Major non-Muslim components of KHAM have migrated to the Bharatiya Janata Party under the compulsions created by the serial communal riots since 1985. The Congress has failed to reclaim them as its aggressive wooing of Muslims has put off the other three communities
In this communal polarisation, Modi has built a halo of Hindu taranhar (saviour) around himself, further consolidated by highly focused publicity campaigns like Vikas Purush, a leader with a difference.
This special chemistry with the people has allowed him to get away with riding rough-shod over BJP workers, fellow leaders and other wings of the Sangh Parivar. The Kisan Sangh's hostility cannot lose him farming community votes because farmers have prospered under Modi Raj. The Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad cannot challenge him because he is perceived as Bajrang Dal Plus. Other Sangh Parivar constituents need him for survival, but the reverse is not true.
This special bond with the public helped him overcome the boycott resorted to by BJP workers during the last panchayat, municipality and municipal corporation elections. The refrain was, who will get the public to the voting booth if the party workers are not around? The voters came on their own initiative, and voted for the BJP. Through sheer charisma Modi single-handedly scored landslide victories in all three elections.
Modi's direct-dial relationship with his voters will hold good in the assembly election, bypassing the need to depend on the party to deliver the votes. If landslides could be scored in elections where he was indirectly involved, there has to be a bigger response where his leadership is directly on offer.
No one understands the hyper-Muslim phobia of Gujarat voters than Modi, who with his Sohrabuddin comment has launched a well-crafted strategy to create a situation where voters will turn up at the voting booths on their own to reveal which side they are on. Modi knows it will be on his side. If there is penal action by the Election Commission or if a criminal case is registered against Modi, the backlash will be even bigger.
The Patel-Thakur castes' alienation is more media hype than ground reality. Modi's appeal to Hindus cuts across caste lines. Though Modi is an OBC, high caste darbar kshatriyas regard him as their leader.
Yet, there are some voters who will be overwhelmingly against Modi. They are government servants and school teachers; Muslims; BJP workers who feel Modi has totally neglected them in power-sharing.
The government servants have borne the brunt of Modi's high-geared publicity campaigns while the teachers were punished for habitual absenteeism and poor examination results of their students. Used to lax ways for years, they really detest Modi.
Muslims, for obvious reasons, do not want him as they view him as the ultimate shaitan (devil).
BJP workers realised they were no longer treated as members of the ruling party. They could not peddle influence nor were they appointed as directors in public corporations. Modi was quite happy to use bureaucrats instead. Ordinary voters who far outnumber these Modi-haters will overwhelmingly favour Modi.
Arvind J Bosmia is an Ahmedabad-based freelance journalist
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