Rajiv Shah: There is strong flutter among Sangh Parivar insiders. For the first time, they have begun conceding, the party’s Hindutva agenda is falling apart, that too in a state which has been it’s political lab since mid-1980s. Riding on this agenda, based on which the party ruled Gujarat for 22 years, Narendra Modi stirringly emerged on the national canvas in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, winning comfortable majority.
“I am not suggesting that the BJP would lose in the state assembly polls, which end on December 14. It would retain power, even if with a reduced majority”, an insightful Sangh insider, who has been watching the electoral scene from close quarters for about a month, told Counterview. “Our concern is totally different. Instead of Hindutva, which seeks to unite all Hindus under one umbrella, what we see is a direct effort to woo castes for electoral gains.”
Calling it a “matter of concern for the BJP and it’s ideology”, this insider said, “It’s not just the Congress which has been using caste for electoral gains. Rahul Gandhi in his new avatar successfully wooed Patels, OBC Thakores and Dalits by organizing an anti-BJP coalition through Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani. But, more importantly, as a reaction, of all persons, Modi was forced to woo voters on caste line.”
“Thus”, said this insider, who is attached with a Sangh-controlled propaganda network at the very top, “I and my colleagues noticed to our complete surprise that, at least at two different places, in Jasdan and Prachi near Somanth, while addressing audience, Modi seemed to invoke the support of the second biggest OBC group of Gujarat, Kolis, by telling them that he has installed a Koli as the President of India.”
Agreeing that no President of India was ever dragged in an electoral battle by invoking caste, the insider said, “Addressing a sizeable audience of Kolis, Modi told them in Jasdan that even the President of India is a Koli, and they now have an easy access to the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Giving another example at Prachi, he told them, mostly fishermen, that their welfare programmes were launched by a Koli President, Ram Nath Kovind.”
Conceding that Modi’s image of a Hindutva icon remains strong in big cities, especially in Ahmedabad and Vadodara, the insider said, “Even in urban areas, I and my colleagues noticed, this iconic image is starting to erode, and a major reason behind this is Hardik Patel’s unprecedented support... In fact, this election has turned into Modi versus Hardik, with Rahul playing a crucial role in building an alliance with the latter.”
“One of the biggest mistakes of the BJP government in Gujarat was police firing at the agitating Patels, who had gathered for their stand strong pro-quota rally in Ahmedabad a year ago, in which several youths died. Hardik’s men distributed the CD in tens of lakhs across the state among Patels. On watching the CD, Patel women, we noticed, particularly became emotionally charged”, the insider said.
Asked whether the sex CD on Hardik, said to have been distributed by the Patel leader’s opponents in order to morally slay him, had any negative impact, the insider noted, “It has gone against the BJP. Ordinary Patels we talked to blamed BJP president Amit Shah for engineering a conspiracy against their young community leader. Not without reason, the plan to release more CDs, though announced, had to be abandoned.”
Pointing out the persecution of Hardik -- his arrest and cases against him -- further exacerbated the anti-BJP feeling, the insider said, “In fact, what one is witnessing is, Patels as a community, consisting of 15% of Gujarat, seemed to have gone against the party. Exhorting to vote against the BJP, Hardik attracted a much bigger crowd than Modi, and all spontaneous.”
As for Modi, on the other hand, he said, he would have to wait for one to three for people to pour in for his rallies, “yet one could witness empty chairs in large numbers... He wouldn’t recall his two of his top steps, demonetization and GST, except at Morbi, whose small industries, he said, stood to gain from the concessions his government was forced to give.”
As for the Hindutva agenda, such as “Congress should clarify whether it wants Mandir or Masjid”, or the accusation of a “secret meeting” at Mani Shankar Iyar’s residence with Pakistani diplomats to defeat BJP in Gujarat, the insider said, “It also had, if at all, a negative impact. To his surprise, it didn’t pick up, as the Congress didn’t react after former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s strongly worded statement about the meeting.”
Rajiv Shah is a political analyst and editor of Counterview.net. The views expressed are his own.