Campaign targets Delhi, local achievements take back seat
The frenzied response from the 12,000-strong crowd in Prantij (Sabarkantha district), about an hour away from Ahmedabad, makes it seem as though it is a meeting being addressed by a fiery opposition leader about to dislodge an unpopular incumbent government on its last legs. Only, the public meeting is being addressed by Narendra Modi, incumbent CM of Gujarat for 11 years!
How does one explain this paradox? This is the most interesting aspect of the Gujarat elections. Modi doesn’t talk much about his local achievements simply because he doesn’t feel so compelled to do so. He largely focuses his attack on the Congress government and the Gandhi family at the Centre. In another public meeting outside Vadodara, sections of the crowd happily declare Modi as the next prime minister of India. Modi has established a dialogic way of communication. Short questions are followed by quick, eager answers from the crowd, as if on cue. At the end of this indulgently predetermined dialogue with the crowd, it becomes somewhat apparent that Modi is eager to move on from Gujarat to the national scene sometime soon. This is precisely what makes Gujarat elections so interesting.
Modi seems to have established a new political vocabulary to communicate with the urban Gujarati so visible in his last election meeting in Prantij. This new vocabulary is an odd mixture of how India needs a break from the tradition of the Gandhi family-run Congress defining “hamari deshbhakti”. Strangely, in this 45-minute speech, he devotes some 20 minutes to a contentious foreign policy issue — how Sir Creek, a 9,000-sq km marshy water body with oil and gas resources on the border of Kutch and Sindh — is to be divided between India and Pakistan. Modi’s unusually long discourse on Sir Creek and his accusation that the Centre may be bartering India’s interests away to Pakistan partly reveal how he is converting an Assembly election into a platform for a future national election. Indeed, Modi does this very cleverly by employing his new political vocabulary of nationalism based on some of the bitter memories of the average urban Gujarati with neighbouring Pakistan. He invokes the humiliation faced by the Gujaratis at the hands of Pakistan when a private plane flying state chief minister Balwantrai Mehta was shot down by the Pakistani air force, killing the CM. Mind you, Modi is doing all