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Guj win catapults Modi to national heights

CNN-IBN
Dec 24, 2007 at 05:19am IST

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Hinduvta’s poster boy, on Sunday led the BJP to a spectacular victory in the state, crushing the Congress and catapulting himself firmly on the national political stage.

A triumphant Narendra Modi thanked the people of the state for once again reposing faith in him and appealed to all political parties to have a positive attitude and help him build a 'Golden Gujarat'.

In a performance that stunned friends and foes alike, Modi won 117 seats in the 182-member Assembly, marginally less than the 127 it got in 2002 at the height of communal polarisation.

The dejected Congress admitted that Modi's showing was a remarkable achievement and said that the party was deeply disappointed with its own performance in Gujarat.

Gujarat's Muslims welcomed Modi's victory in the Assembly elections, hoping for continued peace and economic development over the next five years.

Civil society and human rights activists also felt the heat of Modi’s victory in a different parameter and said that Modi's victory in the Gujarat Assembly elections was a "wake up call" for the people to be more "responsive" to issues of human rights.

Terming his election victory as a ‘positive vote’, Modi urged all parties and “all those who love Gujarat to rise above political equations and rededicate themselves for the progress of the state”.

So what led Narendra Modi to win this battle? To answer and discuss the issue, CNN-IBN’s Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai conducted a special show Battle for Gujarat.

On the panel to debate the subject were Congress leader Salman Khurshid, BJP MP Venkaiah Naidu, Bharatiya Janshakti Party President Uma Bharati, Citizens for Justice and Peace-CJP, Teesta Setalvad, Rajeeva Karandikar from Cranes Software, Minister of Science & Technology and Minister of Earth Sciences Kapil Sibal and BJP MP and General Secretary, Arun Jaitley.

Is this the victory for Modi or Moditva politics

The show started with the discussion focusing on the exit polls made by media. CNN-IBN predicted 92 to 100 seats for Modi but the final tally as it turned out was 117 seats in favour of the Chief Minister.

Talking about the exit poll and its trend, Rajeeva said, “Like others we were also off the mark for we primarily tried to read between the lines of non-response voters. This time about 16 per cent of voters didn’t respond. Normally we ignore non-respondents but 16 per cent was too high. We tried to reach the level but we couldn’t read the minds. “

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It’s been a tough year for the BJP after the Uttar Pradesh debacle, but Narendra Modi has brought a smile to the party’s face. Is this the victory for Modi and his brand of Moditva politics or does this send out a larger message beyond Gujarat?

“This year we have won in Punjab, we have won Uttaranchal, though of course we lost Uttar Pradesh. Now Gujarat is one more addition and it’s historic because in spite of a massive negative campaign against our leader there, the party managed to get 117 seats,” said Naidu.

Many rebel candidates were contesting on Uma Bharati’s tickets, they were unable to make any breakthrough. So does this mean that Moditva has won out and that Modi now really represents the future face of the BJP?

Responding to this, Uma Bharati said, “I definitely accept that in Gujarat development was the agenda for around 10-15 days. Because of that even Modi had to give many answers to many questions but after the last 10 days when there was peak time in election, that was the time when the development took a set back and maut ka saudagar and Sohrabuddin encounter came on the front stage. All this hurt the soul of the Gujarat and the whole state united and voted for Modi.”

At the end of the day Modi has won across Gujarat, so it’s like wave of sorts and not so much of polarisation as what the Congress would like to project.

“Whatever has happened in Gujarat was probably going to happen anywhere. Nobody will able to tell that a statement made on a particular day made the difference. I know BJP was fully intending to move form development agenda and later on they moved to polarisation, “ Salman Khurshid said.

Development politics vs polarisation politics

Venkaiah Naidu completely disagreed with Khurshid saying it was the issue of development on which Modi had won the Gujarat political battle.

“Modi has established himself as a role model as far as development is concerned. People of Gujarat say that there is perceptible change after Narendra Modi took over as chief minister. Everybody appreciates the good work done by him and so I basically believe it’s a vote for development,” he said.

It was Teesta Setalvad who was completely opposed to the fact that Modi won the poll on the basis of development work in Gujarat. Instead, she was of the view that with the victory of Modi, there would be more threat perception for minorities in Gujarat.

“Modi represent a kind of politics that has obviously worked with a section of Gujarati voters. But I am worried for two things. Apart from genocide cases, which we will continue to fight, I am worried about the threat and worried about the culture of threat that Modi represents. The media was subject to inhuman treatment at the BJP office because Modi has imposed self-censorship, “ she opined.

Reacting strongly to Setalvad, Venkaiah Naidu said, “if it’s true we will look into the issue, but as such we don’t have any such information.”

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Is Modi now the face of Hinduvta politics?

Bharati expressed that development alone could not have led to a BJP win in Gujarat. “There was a total polarisation in Gujarat and it’s Hinduvta and that had the face of Moditva in Gujarat,” she said adding, “How ungrateful BJP leaders are that they are ditching Hinduvta right now and saying they have won on the basis of development.”

The Congress meanwhile was hoping that the rebels would damage Modi. The party had no strategy of its own.

Reacting to this statement Khurshid said, “I think it’s true about most political parties when there is spill over there is a fall out of a breakup within a party, and people are often approached by other parties. Congress did have a plan of its own but the rebels were just an add on. And it didn’t work, it was very clear with the results. But in the party there were two views – some people say don’t do it, some said we should go with them because they have ground strength.”

So, did Congress misread Moditva or was it simply a psychological gap between Delhi politics and what happened at ground zero in Gujarat.

“The fact is that we didn’t realise that Gujarat politics is so polarised. I don’t believe the development agenda on which the BJP is saying they have won the battle. The fact of matter is if you look at Modi’s speeches, throughout they were replete with hatred. He is a clever guy and his propaganda machinery is unbelievable,” Sibal said.

However, Jaitley strongly reacted to Sibal’s statement and said that the Congress was just a sore loser.

He also said that the Congress lost the elections because it didn’t have a strategy at all.

“As far BJP and Modi are concerned, there were three issues, they were willing to have an argument on ideological issues, the security issues or the issue of terrorism, predominantly the issue was the five year record of the Modi government, he gave facts and figures and people accepted them and thirdly there was the leadership issue,” he added.

Sibal denied to the fact that Modi won on the basis of development in the state. According to him Gujarat has developed because of Gujaratis and not because of Modi.

“As far as his decisiveness is concerned, he wasn’t even in position to help people or to reach out to the people of Surat when they were reeling under floods,” he added.

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