The knives have made way for swords in the poll battle in Gujarat as Narendra Modi braces himself for the toughest election ever with his bitter enemy, Keshubhai Patel, plunging into a do-or-die campaign to see him lose, the Congress putting up an unprecedented united front and a chunk of the Sangh Parivar outfits as also a part of his own party baying for the Chief Minister’s blood. Add a dash of some conventional maths here, and it is not hard to see why some are eager to write Narendra Modi’s political obituary for now.
Mr. Modi might be seen ploughing a lonely furrow for the above-mentioned reasons. Yet, the connect he has with the huge urban population — including the mind-boggling number of young voters — is his singular weapon as well as shield that stands strong against the spears darting at him from all sides. A total of 2,05,77,532 or 54.51 per cent of the State’s electorate of 3,78,15,306 voters divided into 1,97,98,012 males and 1,80,17,127 females are in the age group of 18 to 39 years. And of them, almost one crore voters are in the 20 to 29 years age group and 94 lakh figure in the 30 to 39 year segment.
The State’s urban population — arguably Mr. Modi’s key citadel — is a good 43 per cent of the total of around 6 crore people. As against this, the national average is 32 per cent. A sizeable chunk of this population, says political analyst Achyut Yagnik, “just won’t hear any voice of reason disputing Modi’s development claims.”
His detractors won’t accept this publicly but Mr. Modi has created a personality cult that rises above his party and it is an American presidential poll kind of scenario where the question being asked is Modi Versus Who?
“There is not a single leader in the Congress who holds this kind of sway over the urban population. The youth of the State are obviously no exception, you can see it. It is so very palpable,” notes Yagnik. Even the Congress leaders, who point to the hard work they have put up to counter Mr. Modi during this election unlike in the past, privately admit they have no answer to this personality cult that the CM has created.
On his part, Mr. Modi is leaving no stone unturned to address especially the youth. Besides being a regular on Twitter — he has over 9 lakh followers and has 7 lakh-plus ‘Likes’ on Facebook — he is making an all-out effort to reach out to the young. Many of those followers are inactive or “fake” according to a recent survey but he became the first politician in the country to hop on to Google Hangout. He fielded questions on his dress sense, especially his trademark half-sleeve kurtas, eating habits and the way he handles criticism. Claims are that some six lakh people watched it.
Mr. Modi organised a State-level sports meet and is now getting over a lakh cricket bats made with the slogan “Gujarat will play, Gujarat will win” imprinted on them; this in addition to 70,000 volleyballs with quotes of Swami Vivekananda on them. He has already completed a 117-constituency Statewide Swami Vivekananda Yuva Vikas Yatra.
The two-phase Gujarat election will see voting to 87 seats of Saurashtra and south Gujarat on December 13 and to 95 seats of north Gujarat, Kutch and central Gujarat on December 17 with the results following on December 20.