There is still no indication of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi — once the BJP's “star campaigner” — hitting the electioneering trail in the ongoing Assembly polls.
Mr. Modi has already skipped the elections in Punjab and Uttarakhand, and was not considered for campaigning in Goa and Manipur. Sources close to him indicate that he has no plan either to campaign even in the most politically sensitive State of Uttar Pradesh.
Each of his day-long “Sadbhavna Mission” fasts, in which thousands of people take part, require elaborate planning and preparations for weeks, and it is unlikely he would make any last-minute change in the schedule. Mr. Modi will complete the round of 33 day-long fasts on February 12 and hold the programme almost every day in the next nine days. By then, two phases of polling will have been over and the campaign for the third phase will have come to an end.
Moreover, Mr. Modi will prefer to remain in Gandhinagar from February 23, when the Assembly session begins with the Governor's address. Finance Minister Vajubhai Vala will present the budget the next day. Mr. Modi's schedule will leave him very few days to campaign that too, in limited areas in the final phases.
Though he was named by the BJP central leadership as one of the star campaigners in Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Modi had not yet not given his consent for electioneering, party sources said, adding he might choose to concentrate on his home State, which is going to the polls later this year.
One of the reasons for his shying away from the U.P. campaign, the sources said, was that in his assessment the BJP was unlikely to fare well in the State. Moreover, his arch-enemy Sanjay Joshi has been put in charge of the Uttar Pradesh elections.
A former organising secretary of the Gujarat BJP, Mr. Joshi went into political exile a few years ago after a compact disc surfaced, purporting to show him in a compromising position with a woman. Mr. Modi's detractors suspected his hand in the episode.
Mr. Modi's reluctance to campaign for the party in the ongoing elections is also being viewed as an indication of growing differences between him and the central leadership, particularly after it refused to back him as the BJP's main claimant for the prime ministerial candidate after the next Lok Sabha elections. His trips to New Delhi have become few and far between as have become visits of central leaders to Gujarat, especially since his first three-day Sadbhavna Mission fast was held in Ahmedabad in September last.
BJP veteran L.K. Advani, representing Gandhinagar in the Lok Sabha, has to visit the State some times, but unlike in the past rarely does he meet Mr. Modi. Even during Mr. Advani's last trip earlier this week to attend a meeting of the Gandhinagar district monitoring committee, the two leaders avoided each other. When he was in Gandhinagar, Mr. Modi stayed put in Anand after his fast.