In their campaigns online and offline, both the BJP and the Congress are in a race to project themselves as the true representatives of Gujarati identity, the words Gujarat and Gujarati having taken centrestage in their hashtags and sound bites.
To counter the BJP’s campaign of “Hu chhu vikas, hu chhu Gujarat (I am vikas, I am Gujarat)” targeting Rahul Gandhi, the Congress has put out at least two videos saying “Hu chhu pakko Gujarati (I am a true Gujarati)”. To every photograph of BJP president Amit Shah dining on a traditional lunch at a party worker’s house, there is a photograph of Rahul sipping tea in a tansali, a bronze utensil for auspicious occasions.
It all began with the BJP’s counter to the Opposition’s “Vikas gando th a yo chhe (vikas or development has gone crazy)” campaign, when it brought in the “Hu chhu vikas, hu chhu Gujarat” video series. The BJP has added “Proud to be Gujarati” as a tagline. This is largely because Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as Amit Shah hail from Gujarat.
Rahul and Modi have made nearly the same number of trips to Gujarat since September, the former for roadshows and the latter to dedicate projects. At every rally rally, Modi speaks in Gujarati and attacks the Congress of “neglecting Gujarat” and “creating hurdles” for the Narmada dam project. Other BJP leaders have been labelling the Congress “anti-Gujarat”.
In this race to appropriate Gujarati pride, there is also the tussle for the legacy of historical figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Although both were from the Congress, leaders of both parties mention them in their speeches.
One Congress video put out last week shows a conversation between a man and his son, an address to young voters who have grown up with the BJP in power. The father narrates how IIM, National Institute of Design and IIT were set up by the Congress. When the boy brings up the Sabarmati Riverfront and the BRTS, the man says the foundation for the riverfront was laid during Congress rule, and BRTS was a product of the JNNURM, a UPA initiative.
At the end the father says, “The Congress built the engine of development, it filled its tank with fuel, ran it with full speed at a 24% rate of development, which BJP took charge of and met with an accident”. Security too is a theme over which the two parties are contesting. In the Congress video, the man tells his son how “the midnight deadline for garba was brought by these people, while during Congress rule girls used to dance garba till 5 am without worries”.
A BJP released the following day is set in a grocery that is visited by “yuvraj” — who is not seen in the frame. The grocer tells the customer how “his shop used to be set ablaze during Congress rule” in an apparent reference to communal riots. His wife intervenes and asserts how “they have felt safe only after the BJP rule”.
On Friday, the BJP launched a street play said to be performing across the 182 seats. It carries a BJP message “to villages and towns on the development of past two decades”. The play has been directed by Mumbai-based Amit Kumar and Sweksha Singh and features local artistes. It talks about the achievements of the BJP governments at the Centre and in the state.
The performance includes songs and dialogues based on demonetisation, “end of corruption”, Jan Dhan Yojna, sanitation drive, removal of red beacons and “end of VIP culture”, liquor prohibition and cow slaughter law besides other issues. The script mocks people who have been questioning where development is.
‘Fear-the-Muslim’ video probe
One recent video, this one unattributed, centres around “fear-the-Muslim”, showing a young girl hurrying home at sundown as azaan sounds in the backdrop. The video ends with the girl reaching home and her father saying “this (fear) happened 22 years ago”. The girl then says, “Now there is Modi”. The video has not been attributed to any party, and is under investigation by the cyber crime division of Gujarat Police.