Aggressive Hindutva is back with more muscle power in Gujarat. That was the takeaway from the first day of the BJP state executive meeting that Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated on Thursday in Kevadia.
It was also clear that even though the state Assembly elections are still 16 months away, the BJP has begun serious homework and is determined to break all records to win all the 182 seats in Gujarat, its home turf.
At Kevadia, the home of the towering Statue of Unity of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, speaker after speaker showered thanks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi — referred to as PM Narendrabhai — for everything from ‘eradicating terrorism from India’ to ‘reclaiming India’s self-respect and native pride nationally’ and, of course, eradicating Article 370 and paving the way for the Ram temple in Ayodhya.
It was evident that even though the party had focused more on vikas and acchhe din in 2017, this election it is aggressively reclaiming its Hindutva line.
Modi’s birthday in Ram’s temples
State BJP chief C R Patil announced that on September 17, Prime Minister Modi’s 71st birthday, special aarti will be held at 7,001 Ram temples across Gujarat. If you don’t find a Ram temple, Patil said, just put a photo of Lord Ram anywhere and perform the aarti.
The BJP, of course, loves to throw in a bit of science in its potent Hindutva mix — pushpak viman, anybody? — so the party will performing 71 open-heart surgeries across Gujarat on Modi’s birthday, too.
Modi eradicated terrorism: Rajnath
“Not only has Modi ji eradicated terrorism [from the country] but now India is on the way to become a major arms exporter. In fact, this year, India exported over Rs 17,000 crore worth of defence products,” Rajnath Singh told an exulted audience.
He said the testimony that the BJP continuously winning Gujarat for nearly 26 years — with only a brief interruption — was proof of the party’s popularity. “We do not win by manipulating EVMs as they allege. We win because people want us and people trust us,” he said to huge applause.
‘Cong talks in Chinese and Pakistani’
The state BJP adopted a resolution which read that under the dynamic, strong, prosperous leadership of Narendra Modi, the BJP was marching ahead to build a safe, secure India full of self esteem and national pride.
The resolution applauded the Prime Minister for taking all steps to make India a vishwa guru, and highlighted women’s empowerment measures taken by the BJP, especially those that empower Muslim women in India — referring to the law against instant triple talaaq.
The resolution officially thanked “PM Narendrabhai” for having fulfilled the dream of crores of Indians to build a temple on the Ram janmabhoomi. The state BJP executive, the resolution said, condemned all pseudo-seculars who do not support Ram Mandir and spread lies about it. The resolution declared that the Opposition parties were still desperately trying to instigate Indians for the historic scrapping of Article 370 in Kashmir.
The Congress talks in “Chinese and Pakistani,” the resolution read.
The resolution is likely to be mirrored by BJP units across India.
Election juggernaut already rolling
Besides the Hindutva push, what was evident was that the BJP has mobilised its impressive poll machinery for a blitz in Gujarat.
The executive members will be guided on ways to campaign and each of them is expected to be active on social media in addition to meeting people and solving their issues, said state BJP chief C R Patil, who had the country’s highest victory margin in the last Lok Sabha elections and is considered the father of booth management in Gujarat. said
“We are ready to contest all elections,” he said. “Even the co-operative sector elections, we will contest under the party banner and we will also issue mandates for voting. It is our responsibility to make you all win.”
In tablets given to party workers, the BJP has done a fabulous job of presenting the party’s schemes and their implementation, with testimonials. It has the entire history of the RSS and the BJP and every speech made by BJP MPs and MLAs of Gujarat. C R Patil vowed to distribute 10,000 more such tablets.
A Congress leader admitted to VoI that the BJP’s preparedness for the 2022 elections was electrifying. “We don’t even have a president at the state or national level including a general secretary,” he rued.
The BJP is least bothered about the Congress, even though the party tried to put up a fight in the last elections only to be stymied by factionalism and immature political decisions.
“The Congress has been reduced to issuing press notes,” a senior BJP minister told VoI. “They have no presence or significance left in Gujarat. It is not even on a ventilator. The Congress in Gujarat is more Italian and American than Gujarati.”
More than the Congress, it is the Aam Aadmi Party that is reaching out more to people in Gujarat, both in the rural and urban areas. There seems absolutely no challenge to the BJP in Gujarat and those voting Congress or AAP or others would purely be on ideological or caste basis. The BJP citadel is still erect, even with all its splits fractured.
Return to roots
The move to return to aggressive Hindutva is strategically sound. The BJP is not bluffing when it says that it knows the pulse of Gujarat. Gujarat has always been the laboratory for all saffron experiments in the country.
Despite corruption, many man-made and natural calamities, and more recently demonetisation, the GST mess, the Rafale controversy and the pandemic, Gujarat has consistently been voting BJP since 1995 when Keshubhai Patel formed a majority government. There was a brief intrusion when Shankersinh Vaghela rebelled against Narendra Modi and then BJP chief minister Keshubhai Patel and formed his own party, the RJP. The RJP with outside support from Congress ruled Gujarat in 1997. Later, Keshubhai Patel was again elected with a majority government.
For a while, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani’s image had been sullied because of his corona management. According to a study by researchers from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the University of California, Berkeley, 54 municipalities of Gujarat saw about 16,000 excess deaths between March 2020 and April 2021 as compared to the January 2019-February 2020.
Gujarat seems to have forgotten and forgiven.
Vibes of India spoke to 65 people after the state BJP adopted its resolution and 61 of those people said that though there were minor glitches that are to be expected during any natural calamity or pandemic, the BJP had done exceptionally well and taken all required measures to ensure fast Covid recovery in Gujarat.
Indeed, the BJP needs to be credited for being able to create this rosy image. Perception management has been the Gujarat BJP’s forte and it continues uninterrupted since 2001. Though there have been national and international reports highlighting how Gujarat has been faking everything from ventilators to Covid rates, death figures and hospital and ambulance management, the BJP in its resolution praised the Rupani government for being a model state during the Covid pandemic.
Barbs at Rahul, Mamata
Rajnath Singh called Rahul Gandhi a “synonym of protest”.
“Whatever happens in the country, he has made it a job to protest,” Singh scoffed.
He advised the Congress to work hard rather than being cocooned in its shell at party headquarters across the country.
“The Congress party has to always import talent, whereas there is no dearth of talent in BJP,” he emphasised.
Of course, he did not mention the many chief ministers the BJP has imported from the Congress.
It was also clear that the BJP was still smarting from the drubbing in West Bengal at the hands of Mamata Banerjee. The Gujarat BJP executive resolution condemned Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress for indulging in “Congress-motivated political violence in Bengal”.
“They are ravaging properties of those who have voted and supported the BJP,” the resolution read. “Maximum people killed in Bengal are those who belong to our non-Scheduled Tribes,” it emphasised.
“The Congress and pseudo-seculars are expectedly silent on this death of democracy in Bengal,” it added.
The BJP state executive also dwelt for long on OBC reservations introduced by the BJP government in the country.
Gujarat has been selected for the next Defence Expo in 2022 , the first of its kind ever, Rajnath Singh announced. Chief Minister Rupani thanked him and proposed that the Special Investment Region of Dholera in Gujarat be chosen to be made a defence equipment manufacturing hub of India since it has all the necessary infrastructure and security protocols. An MOU was signed between the Gujarat government and the ministry of defence for the expo to be held in Gandhinagar, the state capital.