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AHMEDABAD: Gujarat is
going bananas over Vikas, or development+
, considered the hallmark of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s famed ‘Gujarat Model’ which helped him ‘poll-vault’ to the country’s top job in 2014. Political knives are out over ‘Vikas gando thayo che’ (Vikas has gone mad) campaign which first emerged as a post on social media in late August, taking a dig over poor condition of state transport buses and washed out roads after heavy rains and flooding in parts of Gujarat.
The memes — about spine-breaking potholed roads, overturned ST buses, sleeping ministers, and lack of healthcare facilities — all criticizing and ridiculing the ‘development model’ spread like wildfire and soon went viral on social media, being forwarded on Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp at a fast and furious pace.
These Vikas memes, obviously poking fun at the BJP’s 2014 election slogan, ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’, mushroomed into at least two-dozen-odd groups and communities on Facebook with titles such as ‘VikasGandoThayoChhe’ and other variants. The fastest medium of travel of #gandovikas has been WhatsApp.
The opposition Congress promptly latched on to the campaign, pulling it from public arena and giving it political overtones, shaping the poll narrative ahead of the high-stakes 2017 assembly elections in Gujarat. After releasing #VikasGandoThayoChhe garbas and overriding ‘Why this Kolaveri Di’ song with the Vikas meme, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi started beginning his speeches in Gujarat asking, “Yeh bataiye, Gujarat me vikas ko kya hua hai?” (What has happened to Vikas in Gujarat?) eliciting “Vikas pagal ho gaya hai” (Vikas has gone crazy) from the audience. He went on to say that the BJP has put development in the mental hospital and it needs to be brought back to health again.
On the other hand, Modi’s stand that the 2017 elections will be a fight of ‘Vikaasvaad’ (pro-development agenda) against ‘Vanshvaad’ (dynastic politics) has made it amply clear the the BJP will not go on the defensive on Vikas but will continue with it as the main poll plank for assembly polls. “I assure you that Vikasvaad will emerge victorious in this battle,” said Modi.
Modi, who came to power in Gujarat on Hindutva plank after the 2002 Godhra riots, is not the one to ditch Vikas easily as he has toiled hard to build the ‘Gujarat model of development’. In 2003, Modi launched the first edition of ‘Vibrant Gujarat’, proposing the state as an attractive investment destination. In 2007, Modi projected the ‘Gujarat is growth engine of India’ message, winning the first foreign country as event partner in Japan. During assembly elections in 2007, Modi combined Gujarat’s development and asmita (esteem) as the poll plank before he grabbed at the ‘Maut ka Saudagar’ title given to him by Congress president Sonia Gandhi for the fake encounter of a small-time criminal, Sohrabuddin Shaikh.
In 2012, Modi embraced Sadbhavna and won the public mandate solely on development.
Needless to say then that after some faltering — the BJP first released ‘Gujarat ma Congress na chale’ (Congress will never work in Gujarat) and ‘Adikham Gujarat’ (Resolute Gujarat) as counter to gandovikas, which failed to click — the party has finally found a strong counter in ‘I am Vikas, I am Gujarat’. The campaign has given the BJP the power to counter ‘gandovikas’.
“BJP has become the synonym for vikas (development) and those who claim that ‘vikas gando thayo che’ are blind and cannot see development on the ground,” said chief minister Vijay Rupani. “For the opposition, vikas is a joke but for the BJP vikas is everything.”
While the Congress and the BJP slug it out over Vikas, the campaign has caught the fancy of people in other states as well. Recently, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Chouhan was trolled with the “#Vikas Ka Pagla Mama” after he stated that roads in his state are better than those in the USA!
Social media analysts said that ever since #Vikas hashtags emerged on Facebook and Twitter, they have continued to rally users around the theme — both for and against — for over two months now. Mitesh Sanghvi, manager of Google Business Group, Ahmedabad, said that the trend had started with ‘Vikas Gando Thayo Che’ outlining a number of shortcomings in Gujarat.
“The BJP’s counter ‘I am Vikas, I am Gujarat’ theme as the primary poll cry has kept alive the debate around development. Due to its use by the leaders such as Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, it sure will be the buzzword for the 2017 elections,” said Sanghvi. The buzz around Vikas will stop only after people have exercised their franchise on December 9 and 14.