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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 109

Gujarat: Heart Burning Against ‘Hridya Samrat’

By Tukoji R. Pandit - Syndicate Features

There are obvious reasons why the Bharatiya Janata Party would like to play up the Ram Setu fiasco by the Congress-led UPA government. As the self-proclaimed voice of the Hindus, the BJP will not miss any opportunity to berate the Congress as ‘anti-Hindu’; certainly, not at a time when a number of state assembly polls are round the corner. One of the states likely to go to polls before the year-end is Gujarat now ruled by the ‘Hindu Hridya Samrat’ Narendra Modi—a BJP appellation given to him in gratitude of his role in furthering the party’s Hindutva agenda from the time of the Gujarat riots.

It is not very sure if the ‘Samrat’ continues to find place in the hearts of Hindus but what looks more certain is that many BJP leaders and rank and file, no longer see him as a ‘Hridya Samrat’ In fact, quite a few prominent leaders have openly revolted against Modi while the party has lost support among some dominant castes and communities like the Patels of Saurashtra.

After ten years Modi rule, a political re-alignment is very much over due in Gujarat. Indications are that it will take formal shape ahead of the assembly polls. Some analysts believe that Modi will easily sail through again despite a spate of negative signals.

In Rajkot, the nerve-centre of the Saurashtra region, the BJP rebels shared platform with the Congress at a ‘Khedut Mahasammelan’ (large convention of farmers) on September 14 to lambaste Modi for his ‘anti-farmer’ policies. An important thing about the convention was that the rally was held after the Ram Setu controversy had broken out and Modi had fired his first shot against ‘Rome’, his euphemism for Sonia Gandhi, the Congress president.

About the only consolation for the BJP was the notable absence at the ‘Mahasammelan’ of perhaps the most prominent BJP critic of Modi, former chief minister Keshubhai Patel. That is no big comfort for Modi in fact. Because, there are no indications that Keshubhai has called off his ‘Remove Modi’ campaign.

The ‘Mahasammelan’ did have the tinge of a farmers’ rally. Modi was held responsible for reducing electricity supply to farmers from 42 percent to 27 percent; the remaining 15 percent was allotted to industrialists. This has already entailed re-designation of Modi as the ‘Gaurav’ (pride) of five (symbolic) ‘Udyogpatis’ (industrialists) instead of being the ‘Gaurav’ of five crore Gujaratis.

BJP rebels’ rhetoric is clearly aimed at throwing Modi out of power. It may not be such a tough proposition as it appears at the outset because in the previous assembly polls the rebels in the two main parties had become a vital factor in determining the outcome in at least a third of the total assembly seats.

Among the BJP rebel leaders who addressed the Rajkot rally were not just farmer leaders but also those who have particular caste and community following of consequence—members from the Dalit, Adivasi, Patel and Koli communities etc as well as those who have influence among diamond and groundnut traders. A home minister in Modi’s cabinet during happier times, Gordhan Zadaphia told the gathering that defeating Modi would be a virtuous act (‘punya’). Before the ‘Khedut Mahasammelan’ ended the farmers had taken a public pledge not to rest till they had defeated Modi.

A ‘counter’ rally of Adivasis was addressed by Modi the following day in Vadodara attended by a crowd largely gathered with the help of state machinery. The Adivasis concentrated in central and southern parts of the state had shifted their loyalties from Congress to the BJP in recent years. But they are no longer considered a safe bet for the BJP. As for Saurashtra, nearly one-third of the 182 members in the state assembly hail from this belt, that is to say it sends more representatives to the Vidhan Sabha than any other region (north, south and central Gujarat) of the state.

The Patels who had played a vital role in installing the BJP in power and keeping it there for over a decade have started to desert the party. The audience at Rajkot was believed to be overwhelmingly Patel. And, of course, the state BJP, particularly Modi, have never felt the need to win over the minorities who number about 15 percent of the population.

Patels do not constitute the only important desertion from the BJP camp. Surprising though it may seem it appears that the ‘Hindu Hridya Samrat’ is no longer the poster boy of the Sangh Parivar, particularly the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The general secretary of the VHP, a one-time diehard fan of Modi’s, Praveen Togadia (incidentally, a Patel) has turned against Modi, criticising the latter’s ‘style of functioning’. It is believed that the Sangh Parivar is not keen to campaign in support of Modi. If true, that could be a severe blow to Modi’s aspirations to extend his rule in Gujarat.

The BJP bosses in Delhi are well aware of ‘the revolt’. They have sent one of their bright general secretaries, Arun Jaitely on a fire-fighting mission; he failed to perform a miracle. Yet, the party HQ seems confident that Modi can get the better of his detractors. He has to because if Modi is weakened, the ‘Iron Man’ of the BJP, L.K. Advani, may find it difficult to retain his Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat..

Speaking of ‘Iron Man’, Modi once had his supports bring out posters describing himself as Gujarat’s Iron Man. That had led to protests. Some days ago, his supporters brought out another poster that showing him as Lord Krishna and Keshubhai Patel and company as Kauravs. That had stirred more protests.

The Modi camp can draw inspiration from history and mythology to project him as an invincible figure. Right now his path seems lined with obstructions that he may find hard to overcome with ease despite his bravado and poisonous communal rhetoric. Modi may be an ‘iconic’ figure in the party but he may well stumble in his home ground.

- Syndicate Features -

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