Friday, November 16, 2012

Keshubhai follows the Didi blueprint

EAST IS east and west is west. In the Indian polity, they often meet and mirror each other. In something that can’t just be simple coincidence, the octogenarian Keshubhai Patel launched his new political outfit Gujarat Parivartan Party last week, sounding almost like an echo of the unofficial buzzword for the maverick Mamata Banerjee’s election campaign in 2011. ‘ Poribortan’, she had promised to West Bengal, or rather, Paschimbanga.
It is however, not just the promise of change which the Patel Patriarch has borrowed from Mamata it seems, but the strategy that has emerged so far has more similarity than the slogan.
To counter the Left, Mamata had taken an ultra- left turn with unrestrained populism. For his part, Keshubhai vowed to revive the ‘ original’ values of the BJP. It was the hardliner Vishwa Hindu Parishad ( VHP) cadres and VHP leader Pravin Togadia who extended support towards Parivartan in Gujarat; making it obvious that, under the veneer of all other issues, the party will attempt to resurrect hard- line Hindutva, from which Narendra Modi had apparently deviated in his bid to satiate his prime ministerial ambition — much like the way Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had assumed a proindustrialisation stand, to the chagrin of Leftist hard liners.
On Tuesday, Keshubhai made a series of promises, which eerily reminded one of Mamata’s populist claims ahead of the 2011 West Bengal election. The promises included better law and order, cheaper transport, electricity and subsidies on cooking gas, reduced VAT on fuel and free supply of life- saving drugs.
If Mamata’s claim to represent Ma Mati Manush ( mother, land and people) brought her to the corridors of the Writer’s Building, Keshubhai has taken up the issues of farmers and average Gujaratis with equally shrill noises against the state government’s alleged favour to industrial houses.
“ It is a party of the people,” read a statement from the party. “ BJP government only thinks about five or seven industrialists, we think about the common people.” Launched months before the assembly election in the state, the party however has not been able to drum up support among the educated urban middle class, something that Mamata could do.
With Gordhan Zadafia, the President of Mahagujarat Janata Party ( MJP), merging his outfit with that of Keshubhai, the party stands to gain some support among the Patel community, particularly in the Saurashtra region.
While Mamata, with her singlepoint agenda of dethroning the Left had age and youth on her side, like Zadafia and Keshubhai, all those who have flocked to this new outfit are disgruntled one- time BJP members like Kashiram Rana, former Chief Minister Suresh Mehta, and eternally vacillating former Gujarat minister Jaspal Singh.
The outfit for the time being draws its raison d’etre from its members’ deep sense of hurt and anger against Narendra Modi and aims at gaining a toehold by encashing the resentment against the BJP in the powerful Patel Community.
With a single- point agenda and some external support, octogenarian Keshubhai for now has been successful in erecting a new political party. The difficult part however lies ahead, when he’ll have to sustain it and put it to the right use.