A poll campaign that harped on religion, caste and dynasty
In a battle that saw little civility and much rancour, Aiyar’s remark was the best gift the BJP could ask for
As election campaign for the first phase of polling (December 9) closed on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi — ironically ‘aided’ by senior Congress leader Mani Shanker Aiyar — brought in sharp focus the biggest poll issue in Gujarat this time around, caste.
Ever since Hardik Patel’s Patidar agitation in July 2015, the BJP has had to contend with the issue of caste in Gujarat, and the related election arithmetic. Little wonder that the entire campaign for Assembly elections this year was mostly focused on religion and caste, though development issues did crop up.
Aiyar does it again
If the BJP was looking for a critical winning poll plank, Aiyar gave it on a platter.
Just as he did ahead of Lok Sabha elections in 2014, when he offered Modi, then the Gujarat Chief Minister, a kiosk at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters in New Delhi for selling tea. Aiyer, who provided the Chai pe charcha opportunity to Modi then, has apparently now given him the the neech favour.
While Aiyar insisted that he was referring to Modi’s ‘low level’ of politics, Modi and the BJP were quick to give it a ‘lowcaste’ spin.
It is now expected that this may become an important factor in deciding the voting patterns in the December 9 and 14 polls.
Religion has remained a simmering issues. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi drew much attention for his temple-hopping — he visited 20 Hindu temples across Gujarat in a bid to add a softHindutva
To promote voting ahead of phase one of the Gujarat Assembly polls, a woman gets an EVM painted in her hair at a parlour in Ahmedabad on Thursday
tinge to party’s campaign.
his Reacting to it, Union Minister Arun Jaitley asked to
know why people would buy a ‘clone’ Hindutva party when the original Hindutva party (BJP) was still around. BJP president Amit Shah urged Rahul to continue to visit temples even after the election. The Congress leader’s Somnath temple visit also stirred a storm in a teacup about his religion.
During the campaign, the Ayodhya issue also cropped up when Congress leader Kapil Sibal, whom his party had directed to frame a “formula” on the Patidars’ quota demand, urged the Supreme Court earlier this week to postpone hearing in the Ram temple case until completion of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Modi lapped it up, saying the Congress was linking an issue of faith to an election. Ironically, the Sunni Wakf Board denied asking for a postpone- ment of hearing, while the Congress washed its hands of the issue, saying Sibal appeared in in his capacity as a lawyer, not a political leader.
If Rahul questioned the BJP to describe its achievements — both in Gujarat since 1995 and at the Centre since 2014 – Shah asked him to explain what his family had achieved over three-and-a-half generations. Of the 182 Assembly seats in Gujarat, 98 are in rural areas and 84 in urban areas, the latter being BJP citadels. Since 2002, when the BJP won 75 out of then 115 seats, however, its share has been sliding.
Call to ink