News Analysis He says Congress has a secret plan to make Ahmed Patel Chief Minister

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is back to doing what he is best at — raking up Hindutva when his plank of development doesn’t seem to be working in what has turned out to be a three-cornered contest in the Assembly elections.

At one public meeting after another, as the campaign hots up, Mr. Modi says the Congress has a secret plan to pitchfork Ahmed Patel, political secretary of party chief Sonia Gandhi, into the job of Chief Minister. To ensure that the message reaches home, Mr. Modi now refers to Mr. Patel as “Ahmed-miyan,” a suffix he used in the run-up to the 2002 poll campaign to call the former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf Miyan-Musharraf, to refer to the larger Muslim population in Gujarat — something that worked well in the State. This was in reference to the attack on the Sabarmati Express train in Godhra in 2002 that left 58 people dead. Later that year, Mr. Modi took to calling the Chief Election Commissioner, whose directives he found irksome, “James Michael Lyngdoh” to emphasise his Christian faith

He started using the moniker “Ahmed-miyan” during canvassing from Mr. Patel’s home district of Bharuch, where Mr. Modi got Asifa Khan, an understudy of the Congress leader, to join the BJP.

He asks: “I am the BJP’s candidate for the CM’s post, who is of the Congress?” Then, he goes on to say the Congress does everything by the back door. “Why can’t they say they have a secret plan to have Ahmed Patel as Chief Minister?” He repeats this, but now calls him Ahmed-miyan.

Notwithstanding Mr. Patel’s clarification that he is not in the race for any political post, Mr. Modi is continuing with his claim. He is making the most of the fact that he has cultivated a personality cult that has turned Gujarat’s political discourse into a “Modi Versus Who?” scenario.

With the Congress this time round not handing over any emotive issue to him — like it did two days ahead of the polls in 2007 when it raked up the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter and called him the “Merchant of Death” — and with the former Chief Minister, Keshubhai Patel, queering his pitch, Mr. Modi is back to saying things where few can touch him.

The Hindutva mascot knows well that the moniker “Ahmed-miyan” immediately touches the aam Gujarati chord. Despite the Chief Minister’s three-day Sadbhavna yatra, during which he undertook a fast to bring about harmony between Hindus and Muslims, there is not a single Muslim candidate in the BJP list. The community finds only a perfunctory reference in the party’s manifesto released on Monday.