Shift of strategy and stage


With the Garib Kalyan Melas and the Vivekanand Yatra, he has personally reached out to large numbers of voters before the formal campaign could begin. After it was inaugurated, he has conspicuously defied its confines and claimed a larger fray be it by physically enlarging his presence through 3D shows, or by vaulting over the heads of the Gujarat Congress and directly taunting the Central Congress leadership.

Of course, in 2012, there are visible chinks in Modi's armour. It is widely believed that Keshubhai's coming out in the open with a new party, as opposed to his low-key revolt in 2007, has held Modi's hand in ticket distribution. As a result, he has played safe, changing only a handful of the candidates, in the process leaving many who are jaded, controversial, and not seen to have delivered to face anti-incumbency in their cosntituencies.

Especially in a belt like Saurashtra, which is more scarred by deprivations and failures of governance, and is also Patel-dominated and therefore more hospitable to Keshubhai's exertions to create a third force, even 3D Modi may not be able to dwarf the basic discontents. About lack of water, for instance in Amreli town, public supply can be as scarce as one hour in 15 days. Or the absence of industry and jobs, because of which the young leave Amreli for Surat, Bhavnagar, Rajkot and Ahmedabad. Here, the anger is palpable in street-corner conversations against the "handful of industrialists" that have benefited most in Modi's regime, and against the local BJP candidate, Dilip Sanghani, a big businessman who runs the local bank and the dairy.

In the end, the election of one of the most politically-ideologically polarising figures of his time could be defined by the man himself seeing through his opponent and declaiming to an audience larger than the one his contest permits, while the main opposition tries desperately to pin him down to the local details and discontents, also while avoiding his eye. Keshubhai's opposition, constantly harking back to his lifetime's service in the Sangh Parivar, offers even less of an alternative worldview.

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