Narendra Modi shifts Gujarat Assembly poll fight away from communal rhetoric

Narendra Modi

Amin broke away from the Congress after he was denied nomination to contest the poll, having lost twice in successive elections.

Aware of the damage Keshubhai could cause in his area of influence, Modi has launched a high-tech campaign targeted at the 'faithful' urban voters who have benefited from rapid industrialisation of the state under him.

His emphasis on further uplift of the "neo-middle class" comprising a vast section which has come above the poverty line but still cannot be classified as middle class, in his election manifesto, is probably aimed at nullifying the damage-causing potential of Keshubhai Patel in Kutch/Saurashtra belt and agrarian discontent in North Gujarat which together account for 110 seats in the House.

Congress spokesperson Ameeben Yagnik does not agree with the "tall claims" of development by Modi.

"What development is he talking about when 44 per cent of children in the state are malnourished? There is no affordable housing for the urban and rural poor," she said.

Sudarshan Iyengar, Vice Chancellor of Vidyapeeth, shares her views. "Bread was never an issue in Gujarat, relative deprivation is. 65 per cent of the electorate is urban (who have prospered under Modi). But according to a United Nations study, 25 per cent of people in Gujarat live below the hunger index," he said.

Modi is also under attack for giving away fertile land to industrialists at throwaway prices but Devang Nanavati of state BJP's intellectual cell defends the decision, saying it has brought jobs for the employable youth.

"Industrialisation is the need of the hour. No wrong has been done in giving land for industries. Several projects for which the government is facing criticism are on Build-Operate-Transfer basis and the land would return to the state after a period of time," Nanavati said.

He said the fact that Congress had fielded as many as five sitting MPs in the assembly polls reflects the crisis of confidence in the party.

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