In sharp contrast, in 2022, the manifesto promises a uniform civil code, anti-radicalisation cells to identify terrorists and sleeper cells, legalised confiscation of property of rioters and demonstrators, a task force to examine Waqf properties, additional funds for Gaushalas, more stringent punishment for forcible conversions, and scrutiny of madrasa curriculums. Almost as an afterthought, it adds the commitment to create 20 lakh (two million) jobs in the next five years.
In 2012, the promise was even higher—30 lakh jobs and 50 lakh ‘pucca’ houses. Ten years later, nobody in Gujarat reminds the BJP of old commitments even as new promises are made. The Prime Minister remains the driving force behind BJP’s poll campaign. He may have spent fewer days ‘campaigning’— when did he ever stop campaigning, a wag might ask—but this time he has addressed more rallies, and the party is arguably spending even more money than last time. A visiting newsman to Bhavnagar was suitably impressed at the sight of 19 helicopters parked in the hangar—one had brought the Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel and another Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. The remaining 17 were being used to ferry BJP CMs, ministers and leaders.
On Thursday, as polling was held in one half of Gujarat, campaigning continued in the other half. Prime Minister Modi himself was scheduled to take part in a 50-km roadshow through Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad. He also played what a section of the media considered a ‘masterstroke’ when he complained that Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had compared him with ‘Ravana’. He has been harping on how he is used to being abused by Congress leaders, while also reminding people of the power outages, curfews and riots prior to 2002. Bad memories make for good politics.
“Such a long and extended campaign by any prime minister in a state election is rare and has never been seen in India’s electoral history,” said a former BJP leader. The PM’s efforts, he felt, indicated the high stakes.