The Modi factor weighs heavily on the campaign of Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani in the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency.
Aiming to send a clear message of solidarity, Narendra Modi, the party’s prime ministerial candidate, will accompany his mentor-turned-rival when he goes to the Collectorate in the State capital for filing his nomination papers on Saturday.
“Mr. Modi and the BJP’s lotus symbol are the only deciding factors for us. Mr. Advani does not count. If the BJP wins this election and Mr. Modi does not become PM [Prime Minister], the party will never be able to rise for the next 50 years,” says Nirvesh Patel, a party supporter from Naranpura village in the constituency.
Mr. Advani’s initial objections to the choice of Mr. Modi for the Prime Minister’s post and his reluctance to contest from Gandhinagar have upset a section of BJP workers. But the broader consensus is to disregard his stand.
However, murmurs of rebellion by some in the party rank and file signal an uneven ride in certain pockets. A perception that Mr. Advani’s victory may create obstacles in Mr. Modi’s path has prompted a section of party workers to go against Mr. Advani.
Interestingly, some deemed Mr. Advani as the rightful prime ministerial candidate in light of his seniority and the key role he played in strengthening the BJP in the past.
“The BJP flourished under Mr. Advani. He is the rightful candidate for the Prime Minister’s post,” Mulji Makwana, a stall owner from Vejalpur, says.
Mr. Advani, a five-time MP from Gandhinagar, bagged a lead in five of the seven Assembly segments of Gandhinagar in the 2009 Lok Sabha election. However, his vote share that year dropped to 54 per cent from 61 per cent in the 2004 election. The BJP has been winning the seat since 1989. Six of the seven MLAs in the constituency are from the BJP and one from the Congress.
While the Baniya caste is an unequivocal BJP supporter, the Congress has some backing in the Jain community. The Congress has fielded former Gujarat Minister Kirit Patel against Mr. Advani, but he is not regarded as a formidable opponent.
“The Congress does not have any strong leaders. Many of them have joined the BJP. About 20 per cent of the electorate in Naranpura village were with the Congress, but now even they are with the BJP,” says Jitendra Patel.