‘Modi magic’ fails to sweep Gujarat, again

May 16th, 2009 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Narendra Modi Gandhinagar/New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, named by some as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) next prime ministerial candidate, failed to make a clean sweep in his state with the party adding only one seat to its 2004 tally.
Out of the 26 seats in the state, the BJP won 15, notwithstanding Modi’s supposed popularity and the claims of state party leaders that they would take all the seats.

The Congress won 10 seats and expects to take one more seat of Kheda in central Gujarat where central minister Dinsha Patel was leading. Counting of the last few hundred votes had to be stopped in the afternoon following a technical snag in an electronic voting machine.

Though senior leader L.K. Advani, who was projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate, has won by more than 121,000 votes, his margin has come down from 217,000 votes from last time.

The election outcome in Gujarat is a setback for Modi, who many say enjoys widespread public support not only in the state but also in many parts of the country. Top corporate honchos of the country and the BJP have often called Modi prime ministerial material.

“All that is not working, even in the state. Even places where Modi travelled outside Gujarat (for election campaign), the BJP has not fared any better,” says Ahmedabad-based political scientist Tridip Suhrud. “He was the star campaigner of the party after Advani,” he added.

He blames the BJP’s performance on the wrong selection of candidates and Modi’s “larger than party” attitude.

“I think the Modi phenomenon has peaked,” Suhrud noted.

The BJP had left the candidate selection to Modi, who fielded a number of new faces as well as Congress rebels, while sidelining BJP rebels gunning for him, including former central ministers Kashiram Rana and Vallabhbhai Kathiriya.

Now the BJP has significantly lost in Saurashtra region including Rajkot city from where Modi had won his first assembly election in 2002 and is the fiefdom of his bete noire and BJP veteran Keshubhai Patel.

Patel was sacked in 2001 to usher in Modi.

Saurashtra is also the region dominated by the powerful Patel community where Keshubhai and his close supporters have significant influence.

Suhrud said: “The caste mobilisation of Patels against the Modi government has now started happening; this is what explains Congress getting seats in Saurashtra region.”

While Modi led the BJP to its highest tally in the state assembly in 2002, the party saw its Lok Sabha tally from the state plummeting for the first time in 2004 — from 21 to 14.

In the next assembly elections of 2007, Modi again ensured victory for the party, but has now failed to repeat that ‘magic’ in the Lok Sabha elections.

Meanwhile, the Congress also suffered setbacks as central ministers Shankersinh Vaghela and Naranbhai Rathwa and the party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha Madhusudan Mistry have lost.

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