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Wall to wall, Congress and BJP slug it out in Gujarat

In March, BJP began a campaign to paint its lotus symbol on public walls; Congress responded by drawing LPG cylinders and its own symbol right next to them.

Electoral symbol of BJP and Congress seen painted over a fence at Sabarmati  in Ahmedabad. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) final in Ahmedabad on May 29, the Gujarat Congress installed a billboard near a stadium gate to congratulate the Gujarat Titans for being on the cusp of winning the tournament. But it referred to the Narendra Modi stadium as Sardar Patel stadium, its former name before the renaming in 2020. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and the police removed the billboard within hours, citing “factual inaccuracies”.

This was the latest flashpoint between the two parties in the run-up to the state Assembly elections scheduled for later this year. The two parties have taken to city walls across Gujarat to outdo one another. It all began on March 13, when the BJP announced a statewide campaign to paint public walls with its party symbol, the lotus. The following month, to protest against inflation, Congress workers responded by painting LPG cylinders and their prices next to the lotuses in Ahmedabad, Jamnagar, and Himmatnagar (in Sabarkantha district). Last week, the Congress also painted its “hand” symbol next to the BJP symbol on public walls near Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati, Shahibaug, Ellis Bridge and other areas in Ahmedabad.

Electoral symbol of BJP seen painted close to Mahatma Gandhi symbol under a flyover near income tax circle in Ahmedabad. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

The Congress’s Ahmedabad city president Nirav Baxi told The Indian Express, “Almost six months are left for the Assembly elections and this is one of our election campaigning initiatives wherein we have drawn hand symbols right next to the lotus all across Ahmedabad. The idea is to catch the attention of the masses and send a message that people have a better alternative to choose this year.”

Asked about the LPG cylinder murals, Baxi added, “Initially, we had pasted pamphlets mentioning the steep rate of gas cylinders and petrol all over the city. But the anti-democratic BJP workers removed them. We then decided to go for murals to constantly remind the BJP of its failure to curb inflation. In the coming months, we are going to organise night cricket matches and garba events in Ahmedabad as part of our election campaigning initiative.”

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The BJP’s campaign to paint its symbol on public walls initially also met with criticism from the Mission Smart City Trust, an NGO, in Rajkot that has been painting walls in the city since 2015. They took objection to the BJP painting over its artwork at the city’s Kisanpara Chowk. After the organisation complained to the city mayor, municipal commissioner, and the BJP’s city presidents, the ruling party whitewashed the walls where the lotus symbols had been painted over the NGO’s artwork.

Electoral symbol of BJP and Congress and AAP seen painted over under-construction metro pillar at Sabarmati  in Ahmedabad. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Responding to the billboard controversy, the state BJP’s media convenor Yagnesh Dave said, “The Narendra Modi stadium comes under the (larger) Sardar Patel Sports Enclave and 15 more stadiums are going to be constructed in the coming times in the same enclave. The Congress is deliberately spreading misinformation among people. The truth is that today the Congress is not left with any issues. So, it is resorting to such tactics to please itself. It has no alternative to the popularity of the BJP in Gujarat and elsewhere.”

Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) Manish Doshi said, “We just wanted to congratulate the Gujarat Titans team and installed a billboard. We called the stadium by its original name. But look at the cheap mentality of the BJP that they seek votes in the name of Sardar Patel yet they cannot stand his name on a billboard. Probably, they are still hurt by the fact that it was Patel who banned the RSS and they can never respect him. So, they misused the corporation and the police to remove the billboard.”

First published on: 01-06-2022 at 12:54 IST
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