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Gujarat elections | Sitting MLA in the shade; it’s a Yogi Adityanath show, bulldozer in tow, in Godhra

Leading the roadshow at Godhra was a yellow bulldozer adorned with BJP flags. Starting off from opposite the General Civil Hospital at Godhra, trailing the bulldozer were a 100-odd bikes, followed by police car cavalcade, before Yogi Adityanath made an appearance, waving atop a truck.

UP CM Yogi Adityanath during a roadshow for Gujarat Assembly election campaign at Godhra on Tuesday. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Campaigning in Godhra Tuesday, 3 km from where the fire in a coach of the Sabarmati train in 2002 set off the Gujarat riots, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the “sacrifice of the Ram bhakts” 20 years ago had ushered in an era of peace and development in the state.

“20 varsh pehle, jo balidaan Godhra mein hua… Ram bhakton ke uss balidan ne Gujarat ko ek model ke roop mein aage badhaya aur Gujarat ne uss samay curfew par sadev ke liye curfew laga dala. Ab curfew nahin lagta Gujarat mein, dange nahin hote Gujarat mein. Gujarat mein har vyakti surakshit hai, vyapar phal-phool raha hai, beti aur behnen surakshit hain (20 years ago, the sacrifice made by Ram bhakts in Gujarat resulted in a ‘Gujarat model’, and a curfew was put forever on frequent curfews, making the state curfew-free, riot free. Every person in Gujarat is safe, business is flourishing, women are safe),” Adityanath said.

To chants of Jai Shri Ram from the crowd, the BJP leader added that the “balidan” by the Ram bhakts had led to the country getting the “yashaswi netritva (dynamic leadership)” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “It’s thanks to it that work began in Ayodhya for the construction of a grand temple of Lord Ram in Ayodhya. Ayodhya mein Bhagwan Ram ka mandir, Bharat ki aastha ka samman bhi hai aur Godhra ke Ram bhakton ke prati samman ka bhaav bhi hai (The Ram temple is a symbol of India’s faith as well as a tribute to the Ram bhakts).”

Also read in Gujarati: ગુજરાત વિધાનસભા ચૂંટણીઃ “20 વર્ષ પહેલા રામ ભક્તોએ કેલા બલિદાનથી નવા યુગનો પ્રારંભ”, ગોધરામાં UP સીએમ યોગી આદિત્યનાથની ગર્જના

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Leading the roadshow at Godhra was a yellow bulldozer adorned with BJP flags. Starting off from opposite the General Civil Hospital at Godhra, trailing the bulldozer were a 100-odd bikes, followed by police car cavalcade, before Adityanath made an appearance, waving atop a truck.

BJP supporters sit on a bulldozer during UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s roadshow for Gujarat Assembly elections campaign at Godhra on Tuesday. (Express Photo)

Throughout his series of rallies Tuesday — at Lunawada in Mahisagar (where an Independent won in 2017, later joining the BJP), at Umreth in Anand (where the BJP won in 2017), at Dabhoi (where the BJP won), and the last stop at Godhra (where the BJP’s C K Raulji won) – Adityanath’s message was similar. He invoked Hindu pride, talked of temples, and spoke about Modi’s administration ensuring an end to communal riots, and consolidation of national security. The backdrop to Adityanath’s dais at the Godhra meeting, in a predominantly Hindu area, featured a ‘Shree Mahalaxmi Mataji Mandir’.

Apart from religious references, Adityanath also made it a point to mention Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in his speeches, specifically talking of the Junagadh and Hyderabad States conceding to join India at Partition due to Patel’s efforts.

Cutting an awkward figure in his own constituency though was incumbent Godhra BJP MLA C K Raulji, on whose behalf Adityanath took out the kilometre-long roadshow, followed by a public address. At least a dozen persons The Indian Express spoke to during the roadshow did not know who the sitting MLA was, and admitted they had come to see or hear the UP CM. At one point of time during the public address, Raulji, 68, bent down to touch 50-year-old Adityanath’s feet.

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A five-term MLA from Godhra, who won last time by a wafer-thin margin of 258 votes, Raulji was part of the Jail Advisory Committee that recommended the early release of the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case. Raulji had later justified their release saying they were “sanskari Brahmins”.

Raulji was earlier with the Congress, winning in 2012 by over 2,800 votes and in 2007 by nearly 14,500 votes. He switched over to the BJP just ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls. A Godhra BJP member said he would not see a nail-biting finish this time. “One of the key reasons for his low margin (in 2017) was that nearly 18,000 votes went to Independent candidate Jashvantsinh Parmar. The bulk of those are coming to Raulji this time.”

Parmar, having crossed back to the BJP, has been seen campaigning for Raulji this season.

First published on: 30-11-2022 at 07:27 IST
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