NEW DELHI/AHMEDABAD: If the exit polls findings come true and the ruling BJP sail home retaining power for yet another consecutive term in Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, the saffron party would perhaps singularly owe the victory to Prime Minister and his mass appeal.
Almost deliberately Prime Minister emerged in the Gujarat poll scene late and initially – as a strategy – room was left to Congress party and their leader Rahul Gandhi to make their moves with Mr Modi only keeping himself abreast of the ground situation.
According to BJP sources in the state, unlike Uttar Pradesh and other states when the poll campaign machinery were directly under the supervision of BJP chief Amit Shah, in the western state Mr Modi had immense personal quotient in play at different stages.
“In several instances, Prime Minister directly dealt with trusted MLAs and candidates and even district level leaders- many of them he knows by first name.
He also guided them and took feedback on what kind of corrective steps were necessary in terms booth management etc,” a BJP source said.
Sources further said it was such feedback that made him interact on ‘Narendra Modi App’ with women wing – Mahila Morcha workers – and with BJP workers in coastal districts.
“These two interactions and his tele chats had electrifying impact and even disgruntled party workers for whatever reasons were inclined to work harder. It was a case of a student preparing for his exam two months in advance. Half the task was achieved in many constituencies by Prime Minister’s personal touch,” the source said.
Despite political pundits and opposition Congress insisting that BJP would ‘struggle’ and Rahul Gandhi even claimed a “Zabardast victory” as a result of Prime Minister’s controversial economic policies, the BJP is poised to win easily.
All exit polls for the two phase December 9 and December 14 election pointed to the BJP gaining a clear majority – rather comfortably – in the 182-seat state legislature.
“The people of Gujarat have put their faith in BJP and Prime Minister Modi’s able leadership and his vision for development,” an enthusiastic BJP office bearer said in Ahmedabad.
The Gujarat election was seen as a litmus test for the BJP and rival Congress Party and an indicator of the popularity of Modi since he became Prime Minister and especially implemented two major decisions noteban and Goods and Service Tax.
“Now, the stage is set for a more confident battle in other states including in CPI-ruled Tripura and Congress-ruled Karnataka and also for 2019 general elections. The ‘Modi-the vote catcher’ is on the job,” the party leader said.
After a rather muted approach to election campaign in beginning- even as Rahul Gandhi hopped from temple to temple and interacted with traders and diamond merchants trying to capitalise on their said anguish, PM Modi plunged into the campaign keeping himself focused.
In between he played up to ‘greater Gujarati aspiration’ — when he along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on September 14, performed the ‘Groundbreaking Ceremony’ and laid the foundation stone for India’s first bullet train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
While critics said huge funds meant for bullet trains could have been used to address issues concerning maintenance of the vast railway network, the Government line was that the project will revolutionise and transform the railways and integrate it to the updated global technology.
The ‘Seaplane card’ that Mr Modi played on the last day of campaign on December 12 was only an extension to that aspiration. In the ultimate analysis, when Prime Minister embarked with trademark personalised style of campaign, he also tried to keep himself rooted to the ground and thus most often repeatedly played up an emotive “Gujarat-ni-dikro (son of the soil card)” calling on voters to back him as a homegrown leader.
Kantibhai Patel, a voter in Ahmedabad, said the Congress campaign went haywire when they started attacking Mr Modi personally. “Congress claims that there was no progress in Gujarat under BJP and Modi, as Chief Minister, was a failure did not go done well with people.
They also tried to project Modi as corrupt, but public opinion did not accept such allegations,” he said.