BJP President Amit Shah was in Ahmedabad over the weekend to address a townhall meeting of youngsters at the Adikham Gujarat (Unmoved Gujarat) Yuva event. However, his statement warning them against believing social media “propaganda” left political watchers stunned.
Shah’s statement smacked of palpable fear of a potentially adverse electoral result in Gujarat, a state that has been a bastion for the saffron party since 1995. His warning to youth on the ‘propaganda’ of social media also came as tad ironic, given that Shah himself was instrumental in bringing the innovation of social media into the election campaigning exercise.
He was credited with taking the use of social media to a new level during the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls when he was reported to have used WhatsApp platform to push the party’s message to electorates with utmost effectiveness. However, he and his colleagues were also condemned for often disseminating fake narrative to the voters.
The general perception in Gujarat right now is that the aggressive campaign on social media by a resurgent Congress has left Shah, often called a master strategist, utterly unsettled. Those who’ve followed Gujarat politics closely say that they have never witnessed such aggression in Congress’s campaign on social media for a very long time.
Sanjay Dave, a local journalist, told Janta Ka Reporter that Ahmed Patel’s stunning victory in the recent Rajya Sabha polls appeared to have further boosted the morale of the party.
He said, “Congress has so many refreshing innovations into their social media campaign in this year’s elections. And we are noticing the positive change for last few weeks. This is crucial given that the Election Commission has not even announced the poll notifications.”
Dave was hinting towards the viral social media campaign titled ‘Aagha Rehjo, Vikas Gando Thayo Che (Move aside, Development has gone crazy). This is the latest handiwork of the Congress’s social media campaign to mock the famous development model of Gujarat, often used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in most of his election speeches. Modi used the famous Gujarat model to successfully stake his claims for the prime minister’s job in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
‘Development has gone crazy’ has been a dominating theme of social media conversations for days with users posting their own quirky take on the theme mocking the much-talked-about achievement of the BJP government in Gujarat.
— Geet V (@geetv79) September 9, 2017
Today, there is only one question in Gujarat that development has gone crazy, is it right?
— Jeet Patel (@JeetPat00029842) September 6, 2017
“Move aside, ‘Vikas’ (development) has gone crazy!”
The new viral meme raging across Gujarat. ? https://t.co/kcTVlwbx7n
— lodaya (@arvindlodaya) September 9, 2017
Keep distance vikas gone crazy in Gujarat pic.twitter.com/O9fmgroFDO
— JigneshPatel (@JigneshPatel281) September 9, 2017
— Bhakt (@BhaktoKbaap) September 11, 2017
Such has been the power of this campaign that even senior BJP leaders including the state’s chief minister, Vijay Rupani has been forced to react. Rupani said that it was not ‘vikas (development) but those criticising it had gone crazy.
The famous Gujarat model has come for sharp scrutiny ahead of this year’s assembly polls even by journalists .
Journalist Gautam Joshi told Janta Ka Reporter, “It’s extraordinary how Modi and his successors have repeatedly fooled the voters of Gujarat in the name of so-called development. In the absence of media reporting the facts, people across India appear to have fallen for their lies. There’s no development here. Roads in Ahmedabad, the state’s business capital are in shambles. We pay the most expensive electricity tariffs in whole of India. More than 450 people have died due to Swine Flu in 2017. The supplied drinking water by civic bodies are contaminated. Farmers are in distress and committing suicides. Social harmony has gone for a toss due to anxiety plaguing minority groups and Dalits. And more crucially, the traders, who have been the backbone of Gujarat’s economy, have been on indefinite protest due to demonetisation and GST.”
The state recently also witnessed the devastating floods with the BJP government being condemned for its lack of preparedness.
Another sign of nervousness in the saffron camp is how Modi has already visited the election bound state five times in 2017. He will once again visit the state on 17 September to inaugurate the newly constructed gates of Narmada Dam. And not to forget his visit on 13 September, when he hosts his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe.