Is Narendra Modi’s confidence a reality? Why is the Hindutva mascot welcoming Congress turncoats and giving them tickets too? Why is he tolerant of dissidence in party ranks and repeated as many as 86 MLAs, all ministers and yet again fielded criminals despite his ‘no-repeat’ policy?
As the polling days inch closer, many see these as a case-in-point to the larger idea that Modi is not confident of a landslide victory that would jettison him to the throne of Delhi. All these years, brand Modi is purported to have singularly won consecutive elections in the state. Though the branding is more aggressive this time, his signature hauteur appears wilted.
Embracing Congress defector Narhari Amin early on Thursday morning in a rare appearance at the BJP’s Khanpur office is a case in point. This is the third high-profile exit from Congress, pertly welcomed by BJP – first Poonam Maadam in Jamnagar, Girish Parmar in Ahmedabad and now Amin.
To put it mildly, politicos are shocked by the new approach of Modi. He knows fully well the liabilities that come with defectors. After all Congress has been famously bogged down by factional politics for the last two decades and Amin has been the face of it.It might be commonplace for most political parties to welcome promising defectors from rival parties with open arms if they serve the immediate purpose, but not for Modi.
The one thing political analysts are discussing with fervor these days is that BJP may well form the government, but not with the thumping majority that Modi has been touting. Many sections, including some ardent Modi supporters feel that looking at the overall mood, an overwhelming majority is certainly not a cakewalk for Modi. And embracing Congress turncoats is only one such telltale.
Another shocker last week was the blatant display of dissidence on at least 15 seats by BJP workers after candidates were announced. Broken glass and violent mobs damaging party office property has been a Congress archetype, most certainly not BJP’s in Modi’s tenure. So much so, that Vejalpur candidate Amit Shah’s mandate had to be pulled back at the last minute and transferred to Kishore Chauhan fearing damage by his supporters.
One more give away sign is repeating candidates. Earlier this year, Modi supposedly concluded his first-hand ground-level survey for elections along with the statewide Sadbhavana fasts. BJP sources systematically floated information in the media that Modi will field a record number of new faces – a statement that CM’s popularity will singularly win seats. “Several ministers are likely to be dropped as most of them are veterans with upto three decades in active politics and youngsters should be given a chance,” BJP sources had confided. As it turns out, every minister is re-contesting. In 2007, two ministers were dropped. Of the repeated ministers, seven lost. This time, 86 MLAs have been retained and 35 dropped.
Two of Modi’s pets in the cabinet, Saurabh Patel and Anandi Patel have moved their constituencies from Botad in Bhavnagar to Akota in Vadodara and Patan to Ghatlodiya in Ahmedabad respectively. Fisheries minister Parshottam Solanki was indicted in Rs400 crore scam by the high court. Another known candidate with serious criminal background is Babu Bokhiria. Buzz in the countdown was Solanki and Bokhiria brought on huge embarrassment to Modi who is particular about his government’s clean image and “would certainly be chopped from the final candidature”. Both boast of a very long and serious criminal record, and considered amongst the BJP’s moneybags, are contesting from Bhavnagar (rural) and Porbandar respectively.
“It is not Modi’s ‘style’ to succumb to leaders’ pressure tactics from within the party. Some attribute this to the GPP’s presence. If incumbents were dropped they could’ve joined Keshubhai Patel as they have a comfort level with him. 182 candidates fielded by GPP seems to have left Modi nervous. Besides, he is desperate to win this polls at any cost,” a senior BJP leader.