Gujarat Titans playing and winning Indian Premier League on home turf on Sunday at the Narendra Modi Stadium. Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah laying the foundation for a Rs 600 crore sports complex said to have facilities that could host even the Olympics. Gujarat Chief Minister and Sports Minister hosting a soiree on Monday for the winning team. Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting the state at least three times since March.
They might seem disjointed events playing out in Gujarat over a couple of days, but they have quite a lot in common: Bharatiya Janata Party’s machinations to secure another victory at the state Assembly election later this year.
Although the Gujarat Assembly polls are a good five months away, the ruling BJP has been milking every occasion to retain power. The entire BJP machinery is at work, with Modi leading from the front, building a narrative that would hold the power on his home turf.
"This is nothing but BJP's election machine at its work. The party knows its business and it is doing well. At Narendra Modi Stadium, Gujarat Titans are winning, and union home minister Amit Shah is watching with Gujarati pride being outsourced to cricket. From an electioneering point of view, this is the best scenario for a party," said Sarthak Bagchi, an assistant professor at Ahmedabad University, who keenly watches the state’s political developments.
On Monday noon, CM Patel and state sports minister Harsh Sanghvi hosted the Titans in an event which was live telecast on various social media handles including the CM's official YouTube account.
The CM showered praises, saying the "Titans made all Gujaratis proud and made every Gujarati's chest swell with pride". Later, Titans received permission to hold a roadshow in quick time and cops lined up for security.
“The idea of outsourcing Gujarati Pride or asmita to an Ahmedabad-based cricket team is interesting because this is a slight push away from the infrastructure-oriented development that Modi-Shah duo emphasises on. It is also singularly excluding anyone who questions the legitimacy of Narendra Modi stadium as the power ground of Indian cricket and anyone who doubts the celebration of Gujarati Pride in this venue in the form of Gujarat Titans' victory is by default alienated from the political discourse,” Bagchi explained.
The dazzling IPL final at the Ahmedabad stadium was witnessed by Shah, chief minister Bhupendra Patel, party's state president C R Paatil, among other senior BJP leaders, along with all the cricket lovers that had packed the stadium to its full capacity of about 1.2 lakh seats.
On Monday evening, the state government allowed Gujarat Titans’ Chief Operating Officer Arvinder Singh to hold a roadshow in Ahmedabad. The event that showcased the winning team saw mass participation. Singh had sought permission from the Ahmedabad Police, which was immediately given, and arrangements were made for its smooth passage with alacrity.
The BJP's focus shifted to Gujarat Assembly polls in March, right after the party's stunning victory in Uttar Pradesh. PM Modi arrived in Ahmedabad on a two-day visit. Modi has, since then, come to the state three times and spent at least seven days inaugurating scores of developmental works, addressing public gatherings, and sharing his "achievements" and seeking more "blessings".
Several other events, he attended virtually.
Similarly, leaders from the opposition, Congress, were also seen almost everywhere: IPL extravaganza, developments involving masses, but not the actual stadium. Sources in the party said that none of the top state leadership went for the match. Although some leaders wished the winning team through Twitter, they avoided the stadium where BJP flags were flying high. “BJP uses its government's power to score political gains,” a Congress leader alleged.
The “electioneering” could be the BJP shoring up defences so that there is no repeat of 2017: where the Congress managed to reduce the BJP to 99 seats—the smallest margin of victory ever since it came to power in the state in 1995. This was because the Congress was able to build a narrative against the BJP then and the BJP is not at all keen to come close to this number again.
“It is never a cakewalk for the BJP to win polls in Gujarat, but it is their hard work that makes the difference at the end of the campaign. You can't criticise or praise their politics, but they are the best at the moment,” said another academician who also knows the political pulse of the state.