With Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting Rajkot on Thursday, the city BJP unit is making all efforts to exploit the opportunity ahead of the Assembly elections due later this year. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani too called for a Diwali-like celebration on Thursday evening when the Prime Minister will hold a roadshow in the city.
Rajkot is the hometown and electoral constituency of Rupani. He is an MLA from Rajkot (west) constituency. Though BJP holds two of the three Assembly seats in the city, it had suffered heavy losses in the municipal elections, held soon after the Patidar quota agitation, in December 2015.
According to BJP insiders, the party is not taking any chances this time. Therefore, BJP workers have gone into an overdrive, marking almost every lamp post in the city with party flags, setting up hoardings on main roads and installing giant cut-outs of Modi and Rupani at traffic junctions.
Bhavnagar road, on which the PM will hold a roadshow, makes for a view suggesting BJP’s election campaign was peaking — the banners of various government schemes and flags of BJP’s lotus symbol appear omnipresent.
Modi is scheduled to visit Rajkot on Thursday afternoon for distributing aid among divyangs or differently-abled and “welcome” Narmada water at Aji dam, thereby dedicating to public the first phase of link-III pipeline of Saurashtra Narmada Avataran Irrigation (SAUNI) Yojana.
He is also scheduled to hold a roadshow from Aji dam to airport via Bhavnagar Road, Kuvadva Road, Kasturba Road and Race Course Ring Road.
“Rajkot is the hometown and constituency of the CM. But, nothing can be taken for granted in present environment and therefore, the party is using this event to put up a show and win over public,” said a party functionary.
Rupani too in an appeal to the residents of Rajkot said: “Let us pay tribute to mother Narmada by lighting lamp between 7.30 pm and 8.30 pm (on Thursday) like we do on the festival of Diwali. Let us realise the slogan of Narmade Sarvade (Narmada, the giver of everything).”
Incidentally, 7.30 pm to 8.30 pm is the time when Modi is expected to conduct the roadshow, before flying back to Ahmedabad.
Nitin Bhardwaj, former president of Rajkot city BJP unit, however, claimed the roadshow was not a show of strength. “After Morarji Desai, Narendra Modi will become first PM to visit Rajkot for purpose other than electioneering. People from various sections of the society will join the roadshow and welcome the PM on their own. This is a people’s event.
Therefore, it cannot be called a show of strength, generally organised by party workers,” said Bhardwaj.
Justifying BJP flags fluttering across the city, Pushkar Patel, chairman of standing committee of the Rajkot Municipal Corporation, said the party workers too have right to express themselves. “People in the city are overjoyed that their water woes will be over for once and all. Supply of drinking water has remained an issue in every election held here over the past 35 years. But, it will be no longer that way and therefore, people are happy. Similarly, BJP workers are also enthusiastic about the event and they are expressing their happiness by hoisting party flags,” said Patel.
However, Patel said he is not aware how much the RMC spent on organising events during the visit of the PM.
According to the BJP, it’s not the party, but people and government departments, as well as the RMC, are organising the roadshow of the PM. State BJP spokesman Bharat Pandya said: “It is not a roadshow, but janabhivadan (public felicitation). It is an event by the general public and BJP is only playing the role of coordinator.”
Major part of Modi’s roadshow falls in Congress MLA Indranil Rajyaguru’s Assembly constituency of Rajkot (east).
In fact, the PM will pass by two of Rajyaguru’s offices. The MLA and Congress have alleged that the BJP is doing election campaigning under the guise of government events, and that public money is “wasted”.
A banner on Rajyaguru’s office on Bhavnagar reads: “Pavlinu kam, rupiyano Dekhado, aa chhe Bhajapa no bhavado (BJP is doing a drama by making mountain of a molehill).”
The SAUNI is the ambitious project of the state government to fill 115 dams of Saurashtra through Narmada water by a network of giant pipelines. The Rs 16,638-crore project is expected to augment irrigation facilities in the drought-prone region and solve problem of drinking water shortage seen every summer.