Thursday, March 23, 2023
HomeTalk PointTalk Point: Modi's image is intact, even if he has left Gujarat

Talk Point: Modi’s image is intact, even if he has left Gujarat

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Over 12 lakh new and first-time voters will be eligible to vote in the Gujarat elections next month, says the Election Commission of India. At a time when the parties are pitched in a heated battle over the claims of development, demand for job quotas and caste identity, many experts say youth voters are already shifting the tone of the campaign rhetoric, and may even influence the outcome. Many first-time voters were infants when the 2002 riots took place, and may be unencumbered by the politics around it.

What do first-time voters in Gujarat, who have no memory of 2002, expect from the elections?

Gujarat has seen different expectations and different issues from time to time. In 2002, when the post-Godhra riots happened, Narendra Modi was accused of torturing Muslims, but he gained prestige and support as well. After the 2002 elections, the issue changed to development. The perception that Modi wanted a Gujarat that is culturally and economically rich played quite well with voters. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, almost all Gujaratis were in support of Modi, because they wanted to see a Gujarati leader rising.

While interacting with the students of IIT Gandhinagar recently, I observed that most of them still believed in Modi, and Gujarat was a safe place for women, unlike most of the states.

The issue of reservation came up in the 1980s, and it was provided just to KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, and Muslim) and this divided people into two groups – those who supported reservation and those who didn’t.

Here are other sharp perspectives on the Gujarat Elections:

Mahipal Gadhvi: Gujarat state NSUI president
Yashwant Deshmukh: founder-director, CVoter International
Sanjay Kumar: professor and director at CSDS
Naresh Desai: state secretary, ABVP, Gujarat

Today, ordinary Gujaratis do not have much faith in government jobs. They are business-minded, want to be self-reliant, and aren’t looking for government jobs per se. Patels are prosperous; there might be few who are poor. There are hardly five to seven Patel leaders, and they also keep fighting with each other. They started reservation as a mass movement, but now it has become a matter of just five to seven seats.

The Congress has been out of power for the past 22 years, and now it is using the Patels, Thakurs, and Dalits as crutches. Even the Dalits who are opposing BJP are not saying if they will support the Congress.

Modi is an inspiration for the youth. But in Gujarat, he is not just an inspiration, he is a Gujarati representing the whole nation. His image is intact, even if he has left Gujarat.

Vishnu Pandya is a political analyst, chairman of the Gujarat Sahitya Akademi, and a Padma Shri awardee

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