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‘Modi’s global aura, Gujarat’s pride’: How UN chief visit fits into BJP’s messaging as polls near

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres' visit to Gujarat Thursday is part of flurry of big-ticket events in state. BJP leaders say these are expected to reap political dividends.

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Ahmedabad: Diwali seems to have come early this year in Gujarat. With the BJP hoping to add another five years to its 27-year innings in the poll-bound state, it is difficult to go a week without encountering a conference, conclave, or inauguration featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the star attraction and harbinger of development, investments, and international glory.

Fitting perfectly into this pre-election flurry of activity is the arrival of United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres, who began his three-day visit to India Tuesday. This is the UN chief’s first trip to India since he began his second term in office in January this year — and a significant chunk of his itinerary is in Gujarat.

On 20 October, Guterres will meet the prime minister at Kevadia, Gujarat, where they will launch the logo, tagline, and a booklet for the Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) campaign— an initiative for eco-friendly living that the PM introduced at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) last year. The dignitaries will also visit the Statue of Unity in Kevadia and the first solar-powered village in India — Modhera in Mehsana district.

“The party has been instructed to make arrangements at all district centres for live-streaming of the prime minister’s launching of the LiFe Mission logo and the visit to the solar-powered village at Modhera with the UN secretary-general. (Guterres’ visit) is a big appreciation from the international body for Modi’s path-breaking initiatives,” a senior BJP leader told ThePrint.

“The LiFe Mission was India’s signature initiative during COP26, where Prime Minister Modi urged the international community to drive a mass movement towards mindful utilisation of resources. Now, the UN secretary-general is coming here to launch the PM’s idea for sustainable development. This will showcase India’s growing global stature under Modi’s leadership,” another senior BJP leader said.

“Gujarati people are very emotional about Modi and the entrepreneurial spirit in Gujarat is very strong. They understand the importance of such global events” the second leader added.

But this isn’t the only high-profile event that’s making a buzz in poll-bound Gujarat.

From Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar, airlines and hotels have been doing brisk business amid a steady stream of national and international events, most of them bearing Modi’s stamp.

These events, several BJP leaders said, are expected to reap political dividends through the marketing, branding, and showcasing of Gujarat as a vibrant business hub and international investment destination.

The last assembly election, held in 2017, was a wake-up call for the party. Owing partly to the Patidar agitation that ate into the BJP’s support base, the party was reduced to 99 seats in the 182-seat assembly, down from 116 in the 2012 polls. With the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also campaigning to expand its footprint in Gujarat, the BJP is banking on Modi’s appeal to keep anti-incumbency at bay.

Also read: Kejriwal’s point man in poll-bound Gujarat, who is Gopal Italia, now caught in ‘misogyny’ row

A packed calendar

It’s been a busy few months for Gujarat — and it’s only going to get busier.

Among the latest events in the state’s chock-a-block calendar are the national games held in seven cities from 29 September to 12 October, the “biggest ever” flagship defence expo in Gandhinagar from 18-22 October — reportedly with over 1,300 companies from 50 countries attending — and an urban housing conclave being held in Rajkot from 18 to 22 October. Gandhinagar also hosted the India-Africa Defence Dialogue Tuesday, and is hosting the Indian Ocean Region-plus conclave Wednesday.

Expectedly, the prime minister is the face of all of these occasions and more, all of which propagate the image of a gleaming Gujarat. On Wednesday, he will inaugurate Gandhinagar’s DefExpo 2022, which is expected to bring in defence investments to the tune of Rs 1.25 lakh crore. He will also kick off Rajkot’s urban housing conclave, which will, among other things, showcase the success of various government initiatives.

The PM has been busy for a while in his home state. Last week, for instance, he laid the foundation stone of the state’s first bulk drug park at Jambusar in Bharuch district, as well as that of India’s first solar-powered village Modhera, where he also dedicated various projects worth over Rs 3,900 crore to the country.

For the past six months, in fact, Gujarat has been hosting numerous events that serve to reinforce its national and international importance.

While occasions such as the National Conference of Environment Ministers last month and the National Conference of School Education Ministers in June underscored the state’s centrality in India, others served to showcase its presence on the global arena, like the Gujarat visit of World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in April. During his visit, the PM laid the foundation stone for the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in Jamnagar, which will be run under the aegis of the Ministry of AYUSH.

Then there was the announcement of the first regional office of the BRICS states’ New Development Bank (NDB) at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City). The NDB has reportedly approved 20 projects in India, worth about US$ 7.2 billion. Another big moment was Vedanta-Foxconn’s decision to set up a Rs 1.5 lakh crore semiconductor plant in Gujarat, rather than in Maharashtra, which had been in negotiations about the project for seven years.

BJP leaders say that Gujarat’s image as a magnet for international investments and felicitations — courtesy of Modi —  has instilled a sense of pride and achievement in Gujaratis. They hope that this will reflect in the ballot box.

‘UN chief’s visit will reinforce Gujarat’s stature’

BJP leaders in Gujarat believe that Modi’s stature, both nationally and globally, will help offset the wear-and-tear of the party’s six consecutive terms in Gujarat. Modi himself was chief minister from 2001 to 2014, when he resigned to take up the post of PM.

“Once Modi became prime minister in 2014, he hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in Ahmedabad. Then he also hosted the then US president Donald Trump in Gujarat (in 2020). It is the pride of Gujarat that the PM was able to host heads state outside of Delhi — in Gujarat,” one of the BJP’s vice-presidents in Gujarat told ThePrint.

“Gujarat has become a symbol of development due to Modi. Now every Gujarati takes pride, whether they are inside or outside India. The visits of dignitaries serve to boost the confidence of Gujaratis,” he added.

A former minister spoke of how Modi coined the idea of “Vibrant Gujarat” during his stint as CM.

“This idea showcased Modi as a man who knows business, who is giving a single-window clearance for Gujarat’s development. As PM, he has taken Gujarat to the international stage, ahead of other states,” he said.

The former minister added that this was the right time to communicate the message that Modi is a “bhumi putra (son of the soil)” who “has taken Gujarat to the skies”.

“The UN secretary-general’s visit will reinforce India’s stature globally, and also before the Gujarati people,” he concluded.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

Also read: Gujarat pride, PM Modi & his works — focus of Gaurav Yatra as BJP looks to woo rural voters


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