Gujarat's lukewarm welcome to PM Modi on first visit

BJP fails to sweep assembly by-polls, Congress retains two seats

ashishm

Ashish Mehta | September 16, 2014 | New Delhi


Narendra Modi with tennis player Sania Mirza, who called on the prime minister recently.
Narendra Modi with tennis player Sania Mirza, who called on the prime minister recently.

Prime minister Narendra Modi will arrive in Gujarat on Tuesday (September 16) afternoon. This will be his first visit after historic triumph of general elections, and it will also put Ahmedabad on the international map as Chinese president Xi Jinping will begin his all-important India visit from here tomorrow.

On top of that, it is Modi’s birthday on Wednesday (Sept 17). The city is all decked up to greet the homegrown hero. Modi should feel on top of the world but he may not. He would be worried about the by-election results, especially from Gujarat.

Of the nine assembly seats where polling was held, the ruling BJP has won six so far, but the Congress has retained two seats. Of course, the BJP has retained the prestigious Vadodara Lok Sabha seat, vacated by the prime minister – not to mention his assembly seat, Maninagar in Ahmedabad.
The Congress, however, has managed to win in Deesa and Mangrol.

This is surprising since the Modi government at the national level, and to a lesser extent the Anandiben Patel government in Gujarat, has been in the so-called honeymoon stage. If the Congress could not be crushed in Gujarat now, then Modi’s dream of a Congress-free India might remain only a dream.

The results do not bode well for the new chief minister, Anandiben Patel, who had led the campaign in Modi’s absence, and called upon the voters to “gift” all 10 seats to the Gujarati prime minister. She is barely hundred-odd days old at the helm and that is too early to judge her leadership, but Tuesday’s results are the first indicator that minus Modi the Gujarat BJP is a very, very weak organisation.

An overarching theme of Modi’s 12 years in Gandhinagar was that as he went on from strength to strength, the party weakened more and more, depending on an individual’s charisma. It is too early to guess the scene in 2017, when the next assembly elections are due, but the party governments in the state and the centre has its task cut out.

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