Tuesday, October 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Advani, Modi’s future is at stake
Prafulbhai Desai

Gandhinagar, October 28
With Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh’s surprise announcement of elections on December 12 today, the die is finally cast which is going to decide the fate of not only Chief Minister Narendra Modi but also of the future course of national politics as the choice before the electorate is “Hindutva” or “composite culture”.

While Mr Modi, after his “successful” gaurav yatra, is confident of emerging victorious at the hustings on December 12, the Congress camp is equally hopeful of wresting the seat of power. But political pundits here are busy making intelligent guesses about the likely outcome of the elections.

At stake is not only the power in Gujarat but the future of the BJP along with Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, as a defeat here would put a question mark on his competence as well as his brand of policies and politics.

But the way Mr Modi and his close friend from the VHP, Praveenbhai Togadia, have conducted the gaurav yatra, has particularly not helped the BJP and its electoral prospects, according to observers here.

In the coming weeks leading to voting on December 12, BJP leaders, particularly Mr Advani, who has been representing the Lok Sabha constituency of Gandhinagar for over a decade now, will have to make serious amends, toning down Mr Modi’s hard Hindutva stance, if they are serious to bring back middle-of-the-road, liberal and broad-minded Gujarati voters to the fold of the party.

Observers say that if Mr Modi gives up his provocative style and “aggressive” show of body language, he will not only be helping the party and his mentor Mr Advani but also his own prospects of returning to power.

News from saffron-turned Congress leader Vaghela’s camp is also not particularly reassuring. Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s tight leash on Mr Vaghela has put severe restrictions on his style of functioning.

An average Gujarati voter is at the crossroads today as he has to choose between a non-performing party and the feud-ridden Congress. Unemployment, recession, bad years of trade and disastrous agriculture have made the life of materialistic populace miserable and credit of destroying the reputation of the state goes clearly to the BJP government.

The Gujarati electorate had high expectations from Mr Advani, who, they thought, would not only nurse his own constituency but would bring laurels to the state by making it economically vibrant, but unfortunately Gujarat is saddled with the problem of resettlement of Muslims.

Mr Advani, who has patted Mr Modi for his various acts of commission and omission, has disappointed many here as they are of the view that the Deputy Prime Minister has remained a mute spectator to the destruction of the state economy and its prestige, both nationally as well as internationally.

To top it, the recent controversy about Dr Ketan Desai’s BJ Medical College has further tarnished the state’s image and lowered the confidence of a section of the BJP.

Even the much publicised coming of Narmada waters has proved to be a mirage for people as water shortage continues to haunt them.

Finally, it is going to be a battle of wits and nerves between Mr Modi and Mr Vaghela who represented the same brand of politics once and are now facing each other, seeking the trust and confidence of the electorate here.

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