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Narendra Modi towers over Maninagar
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Ahmedabad
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December 07, 2007 17:37 IST

Will Narendra Modi [Images] win? "Ek sau ek takka (101 per cent)." This familiar Gujarati catchphrase is the answer you get if you throw that inevitable question to most voters in Maninagar -- constituency of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The mood in the Congress camp may be jubilant after Union minister Dinsha Patel agreed to take on Modi, but Maninagar thinks otherwise.

Only Modi matters in this constituency. It does not matter what the world calls Modi: maut ka saudagar, butcher or a dictator.

"Dinsha has no chance. Modi has the sort of charisma which no other Gujarati leader has," says Deepak K Vohra, a businessman.

Maninagar has five wards -- Maninagar, Khokhra, Bhaipura, Bag-e-Firdaus and Amraiwadi -- with 3,26,000 voters.  In 2002, Modi defeated his rival by Yatin Ojha by 72,000 votes.

But this time, the Congress is banking on the fact that Dinsha is from Patel community as Maninagar has a large chunk of Patel population, who has turned against Modi. According to reports, Modi is losing ground in rural Gujarat and his Waterloo will be in Saurashtra and Kutch where the dissident and anti-incumbency factors will go against him. 

Though Modi has been projecting his clean image, the Congress workers feel that their candidate Dinsha, too, has a good track record.

Pratap Singh, a shopkeeper says, "No doubt, Dinsha is an honest person. But he is an outsider for us. Modi has worked here for the last five years and he has done a lot of work in our constituency."

His friend Parbat Singh pitches in, "All the roads in Maninagar have become double-lane, thanks to Modi. He has built a college, ITI institute, gardens and parks and electrified the crematorium. There is no way he can lose."

But will the Bharatiya Janata Party dissidents and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's opposition to Modi make a difference? Piyush Desai says, "Do you think the VHP men will vote for Congress? In the last assembly elections, Dinsha lost his assembly seat from Nadiad. And you think he can win from here? He has no chance."

The Maninagar population prefers business to government jobs. Hence, employment issues do not have a major role in the polls. There are some slums to support the burgeoning middle class and rich population, but they too are awestruck by Modi's charisma.

In  his own constituency, Modi is playing the card of development and terrorism.

Autorickshaws with loudspeakers on top blare Modi's voice throughout the constituency, reminding voters about the dangers of terrorism.

'Eent ka jawab paththar se' (literally means if someone throws a brick at you, hit back with a rock; the Hindi equivalent of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth), Modi's strong words are often heard on the streets of Maninagar. There is no indication of whom this is directed at, but many of his supporters believe terrorism is bred in the Muslim-dominated areas.

Juhapura, a Muslim ghetto in Ahmedabad, for example, is "widely accepted" as a place that stores arms and ammunitions. Juhapura's entry point is (in)famously called as 'border', akin to the Indian-Pakistan border.

Vikram Jain, a college student, still remembers the day when he was stuck in the Muslim locality of Shah Alam. "A Muslim mob caught hold of me during the 2002 riots. Only when I said Allah-o-Akbar thrice did they let me free."

"It is only because of Modi that we Hindus are safe in Gujarat," believes Jain.

What about development? Is Gujarat progressing under Modi?

The answer comes in a flash. "What development? Everything matters only if I am alive. It is only because of Modi that we are alive. Before Modi took charge every family at Juhapura would keep swords in their home and slaughter Hindus. Now, that has stopped."

Asked how he knows Muslim families kept swords in their homes, Jain says, "The whole of Ahmedabad knows this. You don't know it because you are an outsider."

Says Achyut Yagnik, social scientist and a leading anti-Modi crusader, "Modi has provoked Gujarati provincialism and parochialism. It never existed in Gujarat before."

"Like in Mumbai you have the Jai Maharashtra slogan, in Gujarat he started Jai Gujarat and Gujarat Ni Asmita. Unfortunately, these slogans are only for Gujarati Hindu identity and other minorities like Muslims and Parsis don't count," adds Yagnik.

Concurs Prof Balubhai Patel, senior vice president, Gujarat Pradesh Congress. "Modi calls himself a lion and travels with 25 commandos all the time. Does a lion travel like this? He is a mouse, and the people of Maninagar will defeat him in this election."

"We are going door-to-door to tell the people of Maninagar about his ill-deeds. He is  a dictator. You will see that he is defeated," says a confident Patel.

Brave words, no doubt. Will they become this election's famous last words as well?

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