Modiís net practice for 2014, playing now in urban Gujarat

Dec 17 2012, 01:20 IST
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SummaryThe frenzied response from the 12,000-strong crowd in Prantij (Sabarkantha district), about an hour away from Ahmedabad, makes it seem as though it is a meeting being addressed by a fiery opposition leader about to dislodge an unpopular incumbent government on its last legs.

this when a high-level official delegation from Pakistan is in New Delhi to discuss very delicate issues. Modi is actually talking to Delhi, though nominally he is addressing small crowds of Gujarati voters.

Modiís electoral strength is derived from the urban Gujarati voter who seems to be eating out of his hands. And nearly 55% of Gujarat is urban, unlike the national average of 30% urban population. This is precisely what Modi is banking on to give BJP another term in the state. The only debate at the popular level in Gujarat is whether Modi will get 15 seats less or more.

In 2007, the BJP got 117 assembly seats out of the total strength of 182. The Congress had got 59 seats.

The second narrative which has gained some ground, if you go by what the bookies in the betting market have revealed in the last 24 hours, is that the extraordinarily high voting Ė about 71% Ė in the first phase could help the Congress and former BJP leader Keshubhai Patelís newly-formed outfit, Gujarat Parivartan Party. According to this narrative, Modiís development efforts are limited to very urban centres Ė a la Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh Ė and havenít percolated to the rural and tribal areas. Indeed, evidence on the ground does show that there is immense scarcity of water and electricity in rural areas. Keshubhai Patel is exploiting this to the hilt among his Leuva Patel support base in Saurashtra and Kutch. However, the counter-question here is, why couldnít Keshubhai dent Modiís votes in Saurashtra in 2007?

Keshubhai, of course, answers that question saying the opposition to Modi was not so widespread in 2007. He claimed Saurashtra is ready to vote against Modi today. Keshubhai also says this time round, RSS workers are not working at all for Modi in Saurashtra and Kutch, which has the largest chunk of 58 seats in the Gujarat Assembly.

Saurashtra, therefore, holds the key to whether Modi does better than last time or much worse. Saurashtra has been a bit of a puzzle even for psephologists. For instance, well-known psephologist Yogendra Yadav, now a member of Arvind Kejriwalís party, had predicted a wave against Modi in Saurashtra in 2007. After the results came out, Yadav admitted, in a newspaper article, that he had predicted the wave alright but did not know it was going Modiís way!

Indeed, one cannot be quite sure how Saurashtra

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