Riding atop an improvised vehicle, BJP president Amit Shah drove past Muslim-dominated areas of Sarkhej and Juhapura on his second roadshow in Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency, coinciding with the 39th foundation day of the party, on Saturday.
The roadshow started from Vanzar village near Sarkhej where Shah, who is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Gandhinagar, arrived around 10 am. Before embarking on the roadshow, he garlanded the photos of BJP ideologues Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay — the only two leaders, whose images were seen in the posters.
As the ‘rath’ carrying Shah, who wore a saffron safo (a headgear similar to turban), began moving, party workers chanted slogans like — “Jahan hue balidan Mookerjee , woh Kashmir humara hai (The place where Syama Prasad Mookerjee sacrificed his life, that Kashmir is ours)”.
From Vanzar, the roadshow entered Sarkhej where world famous heritage site, Sarkhej Roza, is situated. At several places, people greeted Shah with garlands and rose petals, and he was seen reciprocating it with garlands and rose petals.
During the entire roadshow, Shah did not address the crowd that lined up the streets to greet him.
Exactly a week ago, he had held the first roadshow in the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency before filing his nomination papers when he was accompanied by several leaders of the BJP like Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh as well as alliance partners — Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray.
On Saturday, Shah was joined by state BJP president Jitu Vaghani and Vejalpur MLA Kishor Chauhan in his vehicle along with a range of local party leaders, including Ahmedabad Mayor Bijal Patel and BJP MLAs from Ahmedabad city.
Shah, currently a member of Rajya Sabha from Gujarat, is contesting the Lok Sabha elections for the first time. His predecessor from Gandhinagar constituency is party veteran and founding member of the BJP, L K Advani, who was first elected from here in 1991. However, during the entire stretch of roadshow, not a single poster carrying the photo of Advani, who have been representing the seat consistently since 1998, was seen.
BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya downplayed the issue, saying, “It is not true that Advani saheb’s picture is not there. It is there in our party’s banner and in our party offices. Roadshow is that of a candidate. So, it is obvious that more pictures of PM (Prime Minister Modi) and the candidate would be there.”
When asked if it was party’s conscious decision to not keep pictures of BJP leaders like Advani or Vajpayee in the banners during the roadshow of the candidates, Pandya said, “It is natural. If you go to Valsad, then pictures of the candidate of Valsad and the PM would be there. Five persons are permanent in our (main) banner — PM, President, CM, Deputy CM and the party president. And above them there are pictures of Advaniji and Atalji. It is our format, and it stays like that normally. But, when there is Lok Sabha elections, then it is natural that only pictures of the PM and the candidate are used.”
A local party worker also played it down. “Advaniji used to get elected from here (Gandhinagar). Party workers used to work for him since he was party’s candidate. But, there was no personal connect as such. In the case of Amitbhai (Shah), he has won from the Assembly segment here, and he knows each and every workers of the constituency. So, party workers are feeling personally attached with the campaign,” a BJP worker, attending the roadshow, said.
By noon, the roadshow passed through areas like Vejalpur, Jivrajpark, touching the border of Juhapura area near Devash Flats which is considered communally sensitive. From Jivraj Park, the roadshow headed towards Syama Crossroads, Jodhpur, and concluded at Vastrapur Lake — a total distance of nearly 10 kilometre.
Shah held one more roadshow on Saturday evening in Sabarmati area of the city, which also falls under Gandhinagar constituency.
Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency consists of total seven assembly constituencies — Vejalpur, Ghatlodia, Naranpura, Sabarmati, Sanand, Kalol and Gandhinagar (North).
The second leg of his roadshow, that began at 6 pm from Sabarmati Vidhan Sabha, passed through the Sabarmati Assembly constituency, which has a sizeable Patidar (Patel) population.
Shah was accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja among others.
Hundreds of BJP workers on motorbikes also took part in the roadshows.
BJP’s song “Main Bhi Chowkidar” was played during most of the course.
Other popular slogans that were used by BJP workers during the roadshow were “ghar mein ghus ke maarenge” and “doodh maangogey toh kheer denge, Kashmir maangoge toh cheer ke rakh denge” — all related to Kashmir issues. While the first slogan was used by the BJP after the Uri surgical strikes, the latter was a line used in a Bollywood movie, starring Sunny Deol.
While covering a distance of 15 km in the second half, starting from Ranip Ramji Mandir, it took Amit Shah nearly four hours to cover the route.
Accompanied by a massive convoy of security entourage, traffic was held up along several busy routes. Notably, his son, Jay Shah was spotted trailing in an SUV, right behind Amit Shah’s vehicle. At the end of the roadshow, Shah drove away with his son.
For most part of his route, there was a significant lack of supporters, and lacklustre response from the crowds of passersby, till the cavalcade reached the areas around Ranip.
Many gathered out of curiosity and to take photos of the event. Slogans of “main bhi chowkidar” invited tepid response.
The BJP party workers flocking around and following Shah, acted as a buffer of a crowd for the most part.
However, it was only at specific spots in his route, largely near Ranip police station and Jawahar Chowk, that saw crowds extending a warm welcome. In fact, Shah extended his time at Jawahar Chowk and went round in circles for a while.
Notably, children formed a significant part of the crowd cheering Shah and his entourage.
The BJP chief did not make any speech, but tweeted later that people;s response was “overwhelming”.