Modi visit to set tone for BJP’S poll drive in Gu­jarat

Mint ST - - POLITICS - BY MAULIK PATHAK maulik.p@livemint.com AHMEDABAD

PM to high­light de­vel­op­ment projects to gal­va­nize party after the set­back in RS polls

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi will visit his home state Gu­jarat at least twice in Septem­ber with plans to high­light am­bi­tious de­vel­op­ment projects that some hope will gal­va­nize the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), still smart­ing from a re­cent high-stakes elec­tion loss to the Congress, ahead of assem­bly elec­tions. A string of planned events, in­clud­ing lay­ing the grounds for the am­bi­tious ‘bullet train’ and ded­i­cat­ing the Sar­dar Sarovar Dam to the na­tion, are likely to set tone for the BJP’S cam­paign for polls due this year.

The rul­ing party, which suf­fered a se­ri­ous set­back ear­lier in Au­gust when it failed to block the re-nom­i­na­tion of vet­eran Congress leader Ahmed Pa­tel in the Ra­jya Sabha elec­tion that had be­come a pres­tige is­sue, is now pin­ning its hopes on the vis­its by Modi, the star cam­paigner of the party.

Modi’s first visit will be on 13-14 Septem­ber, when he trav­els to his na­tive state along with Ja­panese premier Shinzo Abe for the ground break­ing cer­e­mony of the high speed rail net­work be­tween Ahmedabad and Mum­bai at Sabar­mati rail­way sta­tion in Ahmedabad, said two se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials aware of the PM’S visit.

“Apart from the rail project, the two lead­ers will also lay foun­da­tion stone for a ded­i­cated in­dus­trial town­ship for Ja­panese dur­ing their visit. More than 10 Mous be­tween Ja­panese and In­dian del­e­gates are ex­pected to be signed then. The two lead­ers are also ex­pected to visit Ma­hatma Gandhi’s Sabar­mati Ashram in Ahmedabad,” the of­fi­cials said.

Modi will re­turn to Gu­jarat on 17 Septem­ber—it also hap­pens to be his 67th birth­day—to par­tic­i­pate in the cul­mi­na­tion of the ‘Nar­mada Ma­hot­sav’ ya­tra that the BJP gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to take out on 6-15 Septem­ber.

The BJP’S planned state-wide march to cel­e­brate the com­ple­tion of the mas­sive Sar­dar Sarovar Dam is timely, with elec­tions in Gu­jarat sched­uled to be held by De­cem­ber.

The Nar­mada Ma­hot­sav, which is ex­pected to high­light the Gu­jarat de­vel­op­ment model ini­ti­ated when Modi was chief min­is­ter, is also aimed at hitting out at the Congress for its al­leged fail­ure to im­ple­ment the dam project, which has been plagued by protests over eco­log­i­cal and hu­man dis­place­ments.

Ear­lier this week, in what seemed like a pre-poll cam­paign, posters tar­get­ing the Congress party came up in var­i­ous parts of Ahmedabad. They bore the tag line ‘Congress na chale. Gu­jarat ma BJP chale’ (Congress doesn’t work; in Gu­jarat, only BJP works), and blamed Congress for ‘60 years of mis­rule’. This, how­ever, did not go down well with many BJP lead­ers who felt that the party should fo­cus on high­light­ing its achieve­ments.

“Modi’s vis­its to Gu­jarat will in­crease as elec­tion comes closer. There are about 20 strate­gic con­stituen­cies where the BJP is not do­ing well and the PM’S vis­its will be keep­ing in mind these ar­eas. As in 2012, BJP tries to test the wa­ters in their pre-poll cam­paign which are not di­rectly car­ried out by the party. If they suc­ceed, they make it their poll plank, else dis­own it. With PM’S vis­its in Septem­ber, BJP will cer­tainly try to make de­vel­op­ment their main poll agenda,” said po­lit­i­cal analyst Vidyut Joshi, who is also the for­mer vice-chan­cel­lor of Bhav­na­gar Univer­sity.

A se­nior BJP leader who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity said that with the Congress in Gu­jarat out of power for more than two decades now, for the BJP to tar­get them in this man­ner shows signs of ner­vous­ness. Another party of­fi­cial said that for the past sev­eral months the BJP has been tar­get­ing the Congress in its press re­leases. In­stead, this of­fi­cial said, also seek­ing anonymity, the fo­cus should be on the de­vel­op­men­tal work done by the BJP gov­ern­ment in all these years.

“We are hope­ful that the PM’S visit will set the tone in this di­rec­tion,” he added.

Dis­tanc­ing the party from the re­cent cam­paign, Gu­jarat BJP spokesper­son Bharat Pandya said that it was the work of some well­wish­ers of the BJP. “The BJP is not linked with this cam­paign. Our cam­paign will be a pos­i­tive one that will high­light the achieve­ments of our gov­ern­ment. The Prime Min­is­ter reg­u­larly vis­its Gu­jarat and in all his vis­its, he has fo­cused on de­vel­op­ment and wel­fare ini­tia­tives. His vis­its to the state do give us lot of in­spi­ra­tion. Gu­jarat’s de­vel­op­ment model has been ac­cepted na­tion­ally so nat­u­rally it will be the key in our cam­paign,” said Pandya while con­firm­ing plans for the PM’S visit for the Nar­mada event.

AFP

While Modi’s first visit will be on 13-14 Septem­ber, he will re­turn to Gu­jarat on 17 Septem­ber— his 67th birth­day.

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