Ubiquitous Modi but rare in his home State

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However, a repeat of his ‘3D election campaign’ is in the offing, creating a virtual image of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate

As the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, is doing hectic campaigning across the country, the Gujarat party unit will requisition the central leadership for a slice of his precious time for his home State.

Mr. Modi is likely to be present for the nomination of veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani on April 5, an event that could bring together the two internal rivals. Mr. Advani is the BJP candidate from the Gandhinagar seat, which he was initially reluctant to contest.

For the first time, the Gujarat BJP is dealing with Mr. Modi’s near-total absence from the electoral scene. All 26 Lok Sabha constituencies in the State are going to polls on April 30, the last date for filing of nominations being April 9.

“Mr. Modi will give time for Gujarat too. We are going to see more of him as the election date approaches,” Nitin Patel, State Finance Minister and senior leader, told The Hindu.

“Yes, he is absent, but for a reason. The people of Gujarat understand that and they back him wholeheartedly,” BJP leader Purushottam Rupala said.

The State leadership is counting on the electoral infrastructure raised during the Gujarat Assembly elections in 2012.

“Though Mr. Modi is not there, we have several advantages,” Vijay Rupani, BJP’s State general secretary, told The Hindu. “With the Assembly elections behind us, our booth-level network is ready. We also benefit from the excitement generated by Mr. Modi’s candidature for the Prime Minister’s post. For the first time after Morarji Desai became Prime Minister in 1977, we have a PM candidate from Gujarat. Secondly, the Congress has weakened in the State. In the past three months, seven Congress MLAs have switched over to the BJP. The Congress has lost base even in cooperatives and municipalities,” Mr. Rupani said.

The BJP currently has 17 sitting MPs against the Congress’ nine. The Congress had won 11 Lok Sabha seats in 2009, but after the death of its MP Mukesh Gadhvi, his Banaskantha seat went to the BJP in the by-election of 2013. In another case, Vitthal Radadiya, Congress MP from Porbandar, resigned from the party in 2013. He then contested and won the seat on the BJP ticket in the bypoll.

The Congress has charged the BJP with using “unethical” means to “poach” its leaders.

“The BJP used government clearances for commercial projects and regularising violations in construction projects as a method to wean away Congress MLAs. One cannot expect ethical behaviour from the BJP,” Manish Doshi, Congress spokesperson, says.

The Lok Sabha election will see a repeat of Mr. Modi’s ‘3D election campaign’ in Gujarat. A technological solution, which involves creating a virtual image of Mr. Modi, will be used to compensate for his absence. The Gujarat Chief Minister, nevertheless, may conduct 10 rallies in the State, addressing the two Scheduled Caste seats, and tribal, urban and rural segments.

However, no technology can replicate his “one-man show” in government. Mr. Modi has delegated the routine administration to a quartet of four senior Ministers Nitin Patel, State Industries minister Saurabh Patel, Revenue minister Anandiben Patel and Law Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama.

“Since the model code of conduct is in effect, we send every decision to the Election Commission for approval. The four of us oversee the daily affairs and are in touch with Mr. Modi on the phone for important matters,” Mr. Nitin Patel said.

With the campaign making tall demands on Mr. Modi’s time, for the State party and government, his time is of utmost essence.

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