Pak card in Gujarat

In democracy, elections are a fight to the finish, but rules do apply. However, the campaign for the assembly elections in Gujarat seems to have crossed many limits. The worst case among them, so far, is the way neighbouring Pakistan has gotten dragged into the scene through direct references by Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi and other senior BJP leaders. In this case, the Congress, although the largest national Opposition party yet whose leadership was behaving immature till recently, seems to have opined rightly and pointed out that Pakistan is a sensitive subject and should not be used for politicking, and doing so without sufficient proof would harm national interests. The raising of wild allegations against a hostile neighbour, and that too by a prime minister, could even lead to explosive situations.

Prime Minister Modi has alleged that Pakistan is interfering with the Gujarat assembly polls. His take is that the Pakistani high commissioner to India himself is involved in this; that the diplomat held a (secret) meeting at the house of a senior Congress leader in which former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former vice president Hamid Ansari were present; and that a call has come from a former Pakistan Army chief to the Congress to make senior party leader Ahmed Patel the chief minister after the assembly polls. Prime Minister Modi also spoke of a move from the Pakistan side to work in ways as to defeat the BJP — and Modi by implication — in the Gujarat polls this time. Pakistan has reacted sharply to the comments and demanded that the PM avoid dragging Pakistan into the state’s election arena.

Clearly, the BJP is caught in one of the worst fights in Gujarat this time. The prime minister is camping there for weeks, virtually abandoning his job of governance from Delhi, with a view to using his personal clout to the hilt and turn the tide in favour of the saffron party. Impressions are that a neck-and-neck fight is unfolding and the Congress party has, for the first time in two decades, entertained a glimmer of hope about capturing power in Gujarat. The anti-incumbency wave looks to be spectacular, and the Patidar factor is adding to the desperation in the BJP camp. All these, however, are not reasons for a Prime Minister to drag a neighbouring nation into the election fight.

The meeting the Prime Minister referred to was a routine one held by a visiting Pakistani delegation. Naturally, the High Commissioner of Pakistan was present, adding legitimacy to the meeting. If, by chance, there was anything going wrong with the meeting, the Indian government would not have let that pass. But, no question has been asked to the diplomat so far. Instead, the Prime Minister raised the issue at an election meeting. Evidently, the government could not find fault with the meeting and still the PM thought it necessary to make political capital out of it. There was no proof to substantiate the allegation that Pakistan pushed Ahmed Patel’s case. Rather, it is safe to suspect that Patel’s name was purposely brought in to communally divide the people – that too, in what is regarded for long as the ‘laboratory of Hindutva’. Not to ignore is the fact that posters without any Congress or other tag had surfaced mysteriously in Surat some days ago, seeking Ahmed Patel as the Congress party’s chief minister nominee. A BJP hand is suspected behind these posters.

It is worth a wait as to how patently wild allegations could impact the final verdict on December 18. What is, for sure, however is that the Gujarat results will have a make or mar effect on both the major national parties and in specific to Modi’s image. If the BJP loses despite the PM’s all-out efforts, he will have a lethal loss of face; so with Rahul Gandhi, whose installation as Congress president will take place just two days before December 18. Gandhi has evidently pushed his cause hard in Gujarat this time. A failure in Gujarat will further dent his image as a ‘leader who does not deliver results’. A success for the Congress, on the other hand, would be the best foot forward for Gandhi in the new role assigned to him. The nation is watching with interest.

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