Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kicked off a high-octane election campaign in Gujarat by addressing back to back rallies in Bhuj, Saurashtra and Surat.
Modi targetted Congress for mocking his chaiwala past and even invoked Gujarati pride while seeking votes for BJP candidates in the next month’s assembly elections. His detractors were quick to mock him for dumping the famous Gujarat model by not talking about development. This was in the context of his all-out efforts to sell the Gujarat Model during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Many of his political opponents, particularly from Congress also posted videos of empty venues in Modi’s rallies thereby implying that his charisma had faded in what has been a BJP bastion for 22 years.
Salman Nizami of Congress posted the following video.
Modi’s self defeat is at grand display when he’s campaigning in Gujarat. Gone are his theatrics. In timid voice he’s begging to ppl. Chairs empty. Bhakts gone. This was long due! pic.twitter.com/0cQK79XWIc
— Salman Nizami (@SalmanNizami_) November 27, 2017
Some BJP leaders said that there was no truth in the claims made by Congress supporters on social media. They alleged the Congress supporters had juxtaposed the video of empty rally venues with the audio of Modi’s speech.
BJP’s candidate Bharat Boghara said that Modi drew 50,000 plus crowd at his rally in Jasdan. But the Congress candidate from Jasdan, the place Modi addressed one of his rallies on Monday, told NDTV that there was no truth in Boghara’s claims adding that only 6,000 people turned up to hear the prime minister.
He said, “It was a flop show. Only 6,000-odd supporters gathered there, though the BJP had claimed that they will get 50,000 workers.”
A report by Deccan Herald said that the ground for Modi’s rally should have been overflowing with people, ‘especially when a prime minister – that too, a PM like Narendra Modi – came to address the rally.’
“Sadly, it was not even half full. And that was the general observation of those in the crowd, as they walked out of the Gayatri Mandir Ground near Chalala in Dhari of the Patel-dominated Amreli district of Saurashtra.”
Its report further added, “Though not sparse, the number of empty chairs at the venue could make any candidate sweat. Especially when the crowd was from five different constituencies of the district.”
The CID section of the police, which compiles reports for the government on the turnout for security and others reasons, suggests that there were about 7,000 people to watch Modi in Jasdan, and just about 10,000 in Dhari.
Many reports have indicated that the anti-incumbency factor against the BJP is considerably high this time around with Patels, the traditional BJP vote-bank, openly vowing to end the saffron party’s 22 years of governance. Hardik Patel, the face of the Patidar agitation, has urged his community members to not vote for the BJP even if the party fielded his father. His roadshow and rallies across Gujarat have been drawing considerably high turnout, even more than what Modi could attract.
Such is the anger that the BJP’s national president, Amit Shah, had to address an election rally at fairly a large gap from the audience fearing trouble from angry Gujarati voters. Several public events addressed by Amit Shah in the past have been disrupted after angry crowds caused disruptions.
Gujarat goes to polls in two stages on 9 and 14 December, while the counting will take place on 18 December.