Ahmedabad: A tug of war over the development agenda of Gujarat, still scarred by the 2002 communal riots, marked the two-month-long campaign for the Lok Sabha election that will take place here Wednesday.
Taking a cue from Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, his ministers and party activists are highlighting what they say is “unprecedented development” on all fronts. In contrast, the Congress is exposing what it alleges is a development bogey by accusing Modi of claiming credit for achievements carried out by successive Congress governments.
In urban areas, development and economic progress are visible, but in sharp contrast, there is no end to the misery of many others, especially in minority-dominated areas.
The Congress campaign – spearheaded by party president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi – sought to expose the “lopsided development” of the state that is now being shown as an “ideal model” for the rest of India.
“In fact, the Modi model has failed on all fronts… education, healthcare, employment, farmers’ welfare, water supply, urban-rural divide and social harmony,” a Congress leader said.
According to him, of the 182 dams in the state built in the past six decades, not one was constructed during Modi’s tenure.
BJP leaders retaliate by claiming that the Congress’s comments display their sheer helplessness and insecurity vis-a-vis the “Modi wave” which they say has engulfed the country.
Like at the national level, the election campaign in the state too has been shrill, with both sides painting each other as demons.
Gujarat has 26 Lok Sabha seats and an electorate of 3.99 crore, which includes roughly 10 percent Muslims.
As in the past two elections, the fight will be directly between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.
Such is the polarisation that in 2009, barring those from the BJP and Congress, all other 305 candidates – barring one from a regional party – forfeited their election security deposits. Ditto was the situation in 2004.
The tally in 2009 was BJP 15 and Congress 11, but it lost two more seats to the BJP in by-elections later, making its effective current strength as nine.
The position in 2004 was not much different with the BJP standing at 14 and Congress at 12.
The only consolation for the Congress was its relatively less decline in the total vote share.