The 87 of Gujarat’s 182 seats that go to polls on Thursday will be the gamechanger of this year’s election. And the question at stake is simple: are the voters of the state ready to see the big picture, as Chief Minister Narendra Modi would like them to?
“We have to send this son of Gujarat (Modi) to Delhi in 2014,” Narhari Amin, the BJP’s biggest import from the Congress, tells a crowd at Amreli in Saurashtra, minutes before campaign closed on Tuesday. From the same dais, Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi is professing to be a Gujarat fan. “Poorey India ke bachchey Gujarat ka doodh peete hain (in a reference to Amul),” he says. Modi himself has been tweeting to voters that the candidate is not important but the future of Gujarat is.
The Congress’s top leaders, Shaktisinh Gohil, Arjun Modwadia and Shankersinh Vaghela, too have been attacking the CM, even in local meetings. In the few rallies they addressed, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi’s focus, as well as that of PM Manmohan Singh, was Modi and his government. The PM even went so far as to rake up the 2002 riots taint that the Congress assiduously avoided this time.Voters like a tea stall owner in Botad, Abheysinh Solanki, and an Amreli tailor, Vasant Mandaliya, do tell you how they like Modi but find their own candidate ineffective and useless. Similar is the story in south Gujarat, especially the tribal belt. However, few are willing to bet if that will matter in the final run.
The Congress has tried to upset the applecart with its ghar-nu-ghar scheme (housing) scheme and perhaps tried to prop up its development credentials by bringing in Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit to release its manifesto. However, the message towards the end may have got diluted with the top leaders parachuting in from Delhi.
Modi has beaten the Congress as far as appropriating rebels goes too, accommodating the party’s turncoats within hours. The Congress, on the other hand, lost at least a dozen office-bearers because it refused them tickets.
The other two big stories of this phase — wounded lion Keshubhai