The footsoldiers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have started going from door to door, convincing people indirectly to vote for BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. About 500 swayamsevaks are set to visit all parts of Vadodara city to campaign.
Waghodia and Savli are the two of the seven Assembly constituencies in the Vadodara parliamentary seat where the BJP has never got leads.
Waghodia in Vadodara city is home to Best Bakery, where 14 people were killed on March 1, 2002 when a mob burnt it down to avenge the Godhra train burning. The neighbourhood has barely any Muslim now.
Waghodia is represented by the flamboyant BJP MLA Madhu Srivastava, who recently released his first film in Gujarati and faces charges of aiding star witness in the Zahira Sheikh case to turn hostile.
A swayamsevak, who has undertaken campaigns in Waghodia, said, “We are visiting the nagars and meeting people in their homes to explain how the ideology of the Sangh is for the nation and it is in their interest to vote for leaders who think of the nation. We are not promoting Narendra Modi, but the BJP, and by default, Modi is the PM candidate.”
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Asked if they are particularly rebuilding bridges with riot-affected Muslims, they said, “We do not discriminate between religions as we are carrying across a message for the nation’s interest to all areas and as many people as we can.”
They claim that their campaign is mostly focused on encouraging people to come out and vote. Modi’s candidature has excited the RSS. A swayamsevak says, “It certainly makes the sevaks feel that this campaign is worth it. It is time to bring a strong nationalist leader to power.”
Plans are also on to clean up the area around the Prataprudra Hanuman Sansthan, which stands opposite the Mahadev Lake in Wadi area, a communally sensitive part of Vadodara, to welcome Modi, who is most likely to file his nomination from Vadodara, on April 9.
As an unwritten tradition, BJP candidates filing nominations for all elections begin their flight from this temple. Members of temple trust say local pracharaks of the RSS have advised them to be prepared to welcome Modi, although his visit to the temple will depend on security clearance.
When The Indian Express visited the spot, at least 12 workers were physically cleaning the sides of the lake. The temple, which houses a deity of Lord Hanuman, has been a bastion of the RSS which ran a shakha from the premises. Ashok Bhise, a temple trustee, says, “We are waiting for an official intimation. However, since it has been a tradition that leaders visit here before filing their nomination, we are prepared.
But given the security concerns surrounding Modiji, he might have to do as the authorities say. This place is very close to his heart as he has spent much of his time here as a pracharak of the RSS.”
Vijay Thaker, Prantsahprachar Pramukh, Gujarat state, said that the cadre was only executing the command of Dr Mohan Bhagwat to 100% voting and bring nationalist leaders to power. Thaker said, “In his Vijaydashmi lecture, Dr Bhagwat had clearly mentioned that the Sangh cadre must work to ensure voting in the upcoming elections. Accordingly, swayamsevaks are meeting people in their homes to encourage them to vote for the nationalist leaders and throw out the corrupt government that has not performed in the interest of the country.”
The city unit of the BJP, which is preparing its campaign for Modi, says that the RSS campaign is distinct from the party’s. Shabdasharan Brahmabhatt, BJP secretary, said, “It is a fact that the Sangh is campaigning this time. Usually, the Sangh does not get involved directly in political campaigns, but this time the mood is different and upbeat. However, there is no combined campaign strategy. The party is doing its own campaign and the Sangh is performing its job according to what it thinks suits the present situation best.”