On Tuesday, Gujarat Chief Minister and the BJP’s poll campaign committee chief Narendra Modi will be here to participate in the Bharatiya Janata Party meeting.
While BJP president Rajnath Singh will also participate, the Sammelan, to be held at Amroodon ka Bagh here, is poised to be a “Modi” event for all practical purposes.
Yet, publicity posters for Wednesday’s event feature former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the lead, with Mr. Modi relegated to a supporting role.
The main poster, with the slogan, andhera chhantega, sooraj niklega, kamal khilega (the darkness will disperse, the sun will rise and the lotus will bloom), feature a large picture of Mr. Vajpayee, followed by smaller photographs of senior BJP leader Advani, Mr. Rajnath Singh, State president Vasundhara Raje and lastly, Mr. Modi.
For an event that has been billed as a Narendra Modi show all along, with Ms. Raje visiting Gujarat more than once to personally invite Mr. Modi, it is surprising that while all the “street publicity” has been done in the name of Mr. Modi to pull in large crowds, the party’s publicity campaign has subtly pushed him to the background in official publicity material.
But then, there are reasons for this strategy, which will at best serve as a ‘publicity coup’, since Mr. Modi is almost certain to steal the show during the event, if past events are any indication.
The echoes of chants of “Modi ... Modi” during the opening mass meeting of the Suraj Sankalp Yatra in April, must still be fresh in the minds of Ms. Raje.
“There is no downplaying Modiji. How can there be when the entire event is being publicised in his name,” says BJP spokesperson Kailash Nath Bhatt.
“There are several posters designed for this event. Some have Atalji in the foreground, others have Advaniji, still others have Modiji, Rajnathji and Vasundharaji. Some of them have the senior leaders appearing to be blessing Vasundharaji,” he says.
Also, since she is the party’s local leader, Ms. Raje's photographs are bound to be given some prominence, says Mr. Bhatt.
Eyebrows were also raised when Ms. Raje, during her brief interaction with journalists on Sunday, referred to Mr. Modi as the Gujarat Chief Minister and not the head of the party's election campaign committee, in which capacity he is attending the event.
Many present during the meet perceived this as the former Rajasthan Chief Minister not wanting to refer to Mr. Modi as being senior in status to herself. Sources privy to the party's functioning said the party's first priority was State assembly elections, which are to be fought under Ms. Raje's leadership and the party did not want the state campaign to be overshadowed by Mr. Modi.s
Mr. Bhatt also dismissed perceptions that Mr. Modi had been deliberately reduced to a side-figure on the posters to avoid offending Muslims, which the party has been trying to recently woo.
Indeed, the BJP has been going out of its way to get Muslims to attend the event. Special drives have been launched by the party’ minority cell to bring Muslims from all over the State to Jaipur on September 10th.
On Sunday, the BJP minority cell’s city president Mirza Zafar Baig went around the pink city’s Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods, requesting community members to attend the event in large numbers.
Amin Khan Pathan, State president of the BJP's minority cell, has sent text messages to over 100,000 Muslim members of the BJP, asking them to attend the event. Men have been asked to “compulsorily wear (traditional) skullcaps,” while women have been asked to wear burqas, to make the Muslim support to the BJP unequivocally visible.