Chief Minister Anandiben Patel has declared the September bypolls as a challenge for her three-month-old government.
Leading the BJP, which has been on a winning streak, capturing not only the Assembly, but even local bodies under former CM Narendra Modi, Patel has kick-started her campaign with an array of government functions and events, in which her strategy is to cash in on the popularity of Modi, along with highlighting the initiatives taken by her government.
Lok Samvad Setu (LSS), a new initiative that functions as a grievances cell, facilitating meeting of taluka and district authorities as well as elected representatives with laymen, guarantees quick solutions for individual complaints, emerging as focal point around which the campaign has evolved.
Started on August 1, two LSSs have been held in Matar and Anand — two of nine seats that will go to polls. At a function held in Anand last week, she herself interacted with the complainant to make sure that grievance has been resolved. Other Assembly seats to go for polls include Deesa, Maninagar, Khambhalia, Talaja, Tankara, Mangrol and Limkheda, along with Vadodara Lok Sabha seat. The by-election was initiated after the outgoing MLAs, who all belong to the BJP, contested the April-May LS election and won.
“LSS has been achieving two objectives. It’s a platform that Patel has been using to build the image of Peoples’ CM for herself as well as to woo voters in constituencies that will go to polls,” said a senior bureaucrat from the government.
However, she, at the same time, never forgets to mention Modi and his achievements, both as Gujarat CM for 13 years and as new PM.
“You all voted for him (Modi). We won in all the 26 LS seats in Gujarat and made him the PM,” she said addressing a women’s convention at Deesa in Banaskantha constituency on August 19, adding: “The upcoming by-election is a challenge for us, more so to me. We need to get 100 per cent result to prove to PM that we can maintain the record.”
The Deesa Assembly seat is also scheduled to go for bypolls on September 13.
In the same breath, however, she went on to remind the audience that being first woman Chief Minister, her government presented a gender budget, with 87 women-oriented schemes. Like Modi, Patel too peppered her speech by citing examples to prove how locals can relate to her and went on to project herself as someone who shares root with them. “I have worked in farms for 30 years. My hands used to ache due to milking cows. I know how hard it is. The government has decided to distribute milking machines to women who own more than five farm animals,” she said at Deesa.
BJP leaders pointed toward her confidence that they say seems to be increasing. “She now no longer carries a written speech. Like Modi, her speeches are now spontaneous. While delivering her address, she now carries only a piece of paper with figures and names for the references,” a senior Cabinet minister said. This has become more evident in her past couple of speeches, including one at Anand and another at the inauguration of Japanese sanitaryware giant Toto’s at Kalol earlier this week.