Spent guns target Modi

Published: July 14, 2012
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The writer is a columnist. He is also a former editor of the Mumbai-based English newspaper Mid Day and the Gujarati paper Divya Bhaskar

The writer is a columnist. He is also a former editor of the Mumbai-based English newspaper Mid Day and the Gujarati paper Divya Bhaskar

Gujaratis have a name for leaders whose best days are behind them: ‘Futeli banduk’ (guns already fired).

Four such once-big guns have lined up to create trouble for Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The men comprise two former BJP chief ministers, Suresh Mehta and Keshubhai Patel, one former BJP home minister, Gordhan Jhadafiya, and the BJP’s undefeated six-term MP from Surat, Kashiram Rana. These days, Rana sits at home because he wasn’t given a ticket by Modi to contest, despite his record. The four men want a return to their days of glory, denied to them by Modi who has taken away their influence in the Gujarat BJP. They are now threatening to defeat him when the state votes later this year.

The question is: will these guns fire? The answer is: no. On their own they’re lacking in capacity. They tried the same thing in the last elections when they backed some rebel candidates. But they failed to affect Modi’s vote.

The reason is that Modi has dismantled the old BJP in Gujarat and built a structure that is loyal to him personally. So total is his control that every single city’s leadership owes its rise to him. Keshubhai, Mehta and a third former BJP man Shankarsinh Vaghela were all chief ministers at a time when the party contained many leaders. Now there is only one.

Unhappily for the old men, the voters have still remained with the BJP because in India, castes vote as a block. The BJP is kept in power in Gujarat through the votes of the state’s biggest and most powerful community, the peasant Patels, who are supporters of Hindutva.

This is where the Congress has the opportunity to create some mischief. Two of the rebels — Keshubhai and Jhadafiya — are Patels and might be able to pull away enough votes from the community for the contest to be closer than it has been. As I said, they’ve tried this before and failed. The reason is that being out of power for ten years has depleted their resources. A little help from the Congress on this count might make them more effective than they are now. Congress should provide the ammunition for these spent guns. And by that is meant cash. More than half the money a candidate spends on elections in India is directly paid as inducement to voters (cash trumps caste).

This is an opportunistic thing to propose, but politics is allowed to be unprincipled in India and has always been. Already the Congress’ biggest Gujarat leader is a turncoat RSS man. This is former chief minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, who left the BJP after losing the chief minister’s job to Keshubhai.

There is no escaping it: parties must accept how Indians insist on voting. What is important, if one insists on being principled, is following a good policy once these parties come to power.

Another place the Congress should have been more pragmatic in, and, in fact, still can be, is Andhra Pradesh. There, a chief minister’s son, Jaganmohan Reddy, was not crowned after his father died because he’s not seen as being clean enough. He left the party, taking the entire caste of Reddys with him as recent by-elections have shown. There’s little gain and complete loss in the Congress trying to resist the pattern of Indian voting because of its principles.

Gujarat is a two-party state and the contest has always been between the BJP and the Congress, with a few independents. The BJP has a little over 45 per cent of the vote locked. This leaves Congress with little space in which to operate. The rebels are spent, but experienced. Kashiram has been winning elections ever since Modi was wearing shorts (which, as a swayamsevak, I imagine he would have been wearing even in his 40s).

The sorry truth is that these old men still want power. But it’s also true that they are seething for revenge. Congress should give it to them.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Toticalling
    Jul 14, 2012 - 10:14PM

    With Singh getting unpopular and the hair apparent not getting popularity, Modi has a good chance to be selected if the elections are held in 2013
    I wish the claim that he is a spent force is true

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  • Rushabh
    Jul 14, 2012 - 10:33PM

    These guy has no idea what is he talking about. Gujarat has never voted as per caste and no amount of cash can make any difference, it never has. Last time also they said that Patels might vote for rebels as they are patels and it never happened.

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  • gp65
    Jul 14, 2012 - 10:36PM

    Principled Congress. An oxymoron if there ever was one. I am not talking about the INC which won us our freedom but Congress (I) the party formed by Indira and named after her.

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  • sumeet
    Jul 14, 2012 - 10:45PM

    so you are a supporter of the most corrupt dynastic party in india,the congress.i always wonder how people like you write and sell it to the pakistani who have little knowledge about the functioning of indian parties.the most castiest,opportunist party today in india is congress who dont have any leader with vision,a party where your only merit is sycophancy.another fault in dis article is mr.patel’s assertion that patel vote bjp for hindutva agenda,if hindutwa was the factor,why congress was there in power before bjp,or it was that patel were not present in gujarat then.year after year the planning commisson’s data has shown the development in gujarat.recently released report stated the fact that mr.modi ruled gujarat has lowest unemployment rate while aakar’s favourite party congress ruled state maharastra has highest.btw,i know ET will not publish my comment because any one abusing modi and gujarat is immune to criticism..Recommend

  • Lala Gee
    Jul 14, 2012 - 10:48PM

    The democracy and secularism in India, especially in Gujrat, is facade for “Hindutva”.

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  • unbeliever
    Jul 14, 2012 - 11:06PM

    . **There, a chief minister’s son, Jaganmohan Reddy, was not crowned after his father died because he’s not seen as being clean enough. He left the party, taking the entire caste of Reddys with him as recent by-elections have shown.**

    you may earn brownie points from pakistani public for dubbing indians as casteist, but this reddy is no hindu…he is christian..and people of AP are not fool enough that they would be lured just by sirname…butt or sethi doesn’t ensure one’s religion…they are equally used by hindus and muslims….pathetic attempt, i say….Recommend

  • Logic Europe
    Jul 14, 2012 - 11:11PM

    indian courts supported the genocide mr modi is responsible for
    his days are numberedRecommend

  • BlackJack
    Jul 14, 2012 - 11:12PM

    The election commission (based on recent Supreme court judgements) is trying hard to restrict the amount of money that is spent by political parties and supporters that is over and above the legal budget for set for candidate’s expenses. We should look towards building greater transparency and accountability in the system instead of advising parties to perpetuate existing questionable tactics and encouraging their wider application as this piece suggests. No doubt, there is now a fair amount of money that remains unaccounted for and could certainly be going to buy votes in select constituencies, although I believe that the 50% figure is yet another example of the writer’s fertile imagination. However, if true (along with the other assumption that cash trumps caste), that must mean that the Congress (which has nearly double the net worth of the BJP) is likely to win all elections in perpetuity and the writer need not be worried. Interestingly, the loyalty that Modi inspires in his state unit that has attracted the writer’s ire, while the obsequiousness towards Sonia Gandhi and her children that is a hallmark of the Congress is not a concern at all. @ET – hope the above comment will not be censored, I believe my response has been quite controlled.Recommend

  • Sundar
    Jul 15, 2012 - 2:22AM

    Agreed. Politics in India is not conducted as per the book. But it is unfair to give a sweeping statement about caste based politics across India. That too a journalist urging a party to indulge in unfair practice so openly speaks volume about his charecter and class. You have nothing contructive to write?

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  • Amit
    Jul 15, 2012 - 3:03AM

    “Congress trying to resist the pattern of Indian voting because of its principles.”
    .
    HaHa! Kya janaab kyun mazak kar rahein hain aap..The last time Congress had principles was in 1885.

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  • SKChadha
    Jul 15, 2012 - 9:00AM

    The rise of Modi is not by backing of Patels. Go check the ground realities; it is the support from silent Muslim community which is making Modi to rise. On the other hand Congress and other parties are supporting him by labeling him as communal Hindu. Modi’s rise should be a surprise for Muslim, Dalit appeasers in India. I hope Congress and others have learned no lesson out of appeasing policies of Agarwal and Salman Khurshid in UP. Behen Mayawati and Ram Vilas Paswan ji also required to learn. The Indian Dalits (irrespective of their religion or cast) are still vulnerable to amass voting. However, the situation is changing fast with each elections. Doston, Yeh Jo Public Hai Yeh Sab Janti Hai …. :-) Recommend

  • Unknown
    Jul 15, 2012 - 9:53AM

    no ifs , no buts …Modi is best CM in India , no doubt he is a dictator .But not for a common man , for oppositions and thugs . He is man of developement and wealth creation and law and order .That’s what we want .Wish him a long life and long political career.

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  • Khipro
    Jul 15, 2012 - 11:05AM

    I don’t know Indian politics but I understand how people vote, and its different for rural and urban areas. The urban vote bank sells itself or votes on emotion the rural vote bank sells itself or votes out of fear. This applies to all the countries where they have elections based on adult franchise

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  • Usman Ahmad
    Jul 15, 2012 - 11:49AM

    Are most ET readers from India BJP supporters? thought so…

    Recommend

  • karma
    Jul 15, 2012 - 12:41PM

    A Malfunctioning Gun (Akaar) has been used by Congress for a long time to target Modi as well.

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  • Cynical
    Jul 15, 2012 - 2:49PM

    @Usman Ahmed

    “Are most ET readers from India BJP supporters? thought so…”

    A large section of them are, for sure.But I hope against hope that they are not the majority.
    It’s true that BJP’s rabble rousing,sabre rattling and chest thumping style of politics appears to be quite appealing to the baser instincts of middle/upper middle class Indians.
    One can write a long essay citing the reasons and explaining them, but the single most important factor is Congress party’s policy paralysis and vacillation on matters of national importance.

    Recommend

  • Om Parkash Dahiya
    Jul 15, 2012 - 4:21PM

    Gujrat state has progresed a lot under Modi.State has done development in all fields and is on first place. People have harmonios relations. Higher GDP growth in India. Modi must
    and will win the state elections. Elephants walk majestically. Keep on Guy.

    Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Jul 15, 2012 - 7:40PM

    ———————————–I don’t know Indian politics but I understand how people vote, and its different for rural and urban areas. The urban vote bank sells itself or votes on emotion the rural vote bank sells itself or votes out of fear. This applies to all the countries where they have elections based on adult franchise———————————————————

    after you write this, well, you certainly do not know about indian politics…….
    read more and understand even more…Recommend

  • SaneGuy
    Jul 15, 2012 - 8:13PM

    Aakar Patel seems to have no understanding of Andhra Pradesh demographics or Politics. Reddy’s constitute about 5% of the population of Andhra Pradesh and have always been Congress’s solid supporters but Congress has not always formed the government there. Congress was actually out of power for 2 terms. The notion that Reddy’s supported Jagan’s party and that led him to victory is non-sense. Jagan won on a sympathy vote where he was seen as being targetted unfairly by the CBI and ofcourse the high regard his father YSR was held among the general population and he garnered votes across castes/religon/gender.

    Also, the idea that money can win votes is not true and if that was indeed the case any ruling party would not lose elections because they are the ones with most resources. I have been to rural areas where money is spent liberally by all the parties to induce voters and the voters take money from all parties but on election day they vote who they want to and it has nothing to do the money spent.

    I had seen a recent article from Aakar Patel about why ‘Desis’ excel at spelling bee and he attributed it to the Indian capacity to rote. Spelling bee is not about memorising words but understanding the etymology of words. Etymology determines how words are spelled. It is not that the kids who win Spelling bee learn the English dictionary by heart.

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  • harkol
    Jul 15, 2012 - 9:09PM

    inducement to voters (cash trumps caste).

    Aha! Now we know why Congress has been winning elections all this while!

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  • from India
    Jul 16, 2012 - 11:14AM

    I am a Modi supporter …and neither I am a Patel nor I am a Gujarati. I do not support Hindutva as well. All I know is that if I invest Rs. 100 with the assurance of Modi then I will get a return of Rs. 500/-. So, I will vote for BJP and try my level best to make him PM. Period.

    Recommend

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