AHMEDABAD/NEW DELHI: “Vikas” seems to have driven the Bharatiya Janata Party effectively away from its main agenda of development, into the arms of castesim and communalism. Unable to counter the effective campaign in Gujarat on economic issues---including GST---the BJP has recast strategy to focus on Congress Vice President, pinning every act of omission and commission on Rahul Gandhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the tone as early as October during a visit to Gujarat when he said that the Assembly polls were a battle between “vikasvaad” (development) and “vanshvaad” (dynasty). He was responding to the very successful Congress campaign on the social media

‘Vikas Gandho thayo che’ (development gone crazy) and said, “communalism, casteism, dynastic rule, misleading the people — these are the instruments which Congress uses to win elections. They don’t have it in them to win on the issue of development.”

PM Modi further maintained that the Gujarat polls were a “duel between development and dynastic rule. Development is going to win and dynastic rule is going to lose.”

Rahul Gandhi had responded to the PM’s visit with a tweet earlier than the speech speaking of a “jumlon ki baarish” that irritated the BJP further.

This attack has sharpened with Rahul Gandhi being targeted by all BJP top leaders on almost a daily basis. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath who sees most issues in a communal colour has now criticised Rahul Gandhi for sitting in a temple as if if he was offering namaz, and the priest had to tell him that the temple was not a mosque. Adityanath, not really known to stick to the truth, said, “Uss bechare ko yeh tak nahi maloom hai ki mandir mein kaise baitha jata hai. [Poor fellow does not even know how to sit properly in a temple.) When he visited the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir [in Varanasi], he sat like he was performing namaz. The priest had to tell him that this is a temple, not a mosque.”

Amit Shah, not to be left behind, has again linked Rahul Gandhi at a recent meeting, to casteism, dynastic rule, minority appeasement.The BJP has been following Adityanath’s line by linking the Congress vice president and the party to the minorities with a whisper campaign that a vote for the Congress will be a vote to undo all that the ruling party in the state had achieved since 2002.

The BJP campaign is also playing on Gujarat pride, with Rahul Gandhi being projected as the outsider. Maintaining that the BJP stood for development and stability Shah said , “Rahul Gandhi thinks Gujarat is a tourist spot, he is coming here quite often...he should come here and give an account of what the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh government, which ruled in Delhi for ten years, did for Gujarat.” This feeds into the on-the-ground-propaganda by the BJP that Rahul Gandhi is not from the state, and does not care for the state and the people, interested only in winning the elections.

Dynasty also remains in focus, and PM Modi’s line was again reiterated by Shah just a day ago when he said, that the polls will decide whether development or dynasty will win. Adityanath who has been very vocal from Lucknow as well during the Gujarat campaign has also reacted to the news that the Congress is moving towards making Rahul Gandhi president with, “by becoming Congress president, Rahul Gandhi will make easier our task to make India ‘Congress-mukt’ (Congress-free).”

GST and demonetisation have gone off the BJP radar, as has price rise and other dire economic issues. The BJP campaign is shifting almost entirely to the persona of Rahul Gandhi, with dynasty, Muslims and caste emerging as central themes. The caste argument is clearly to counter Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor as the three young leaders representing the Patidar, Dalit and OBC’s respectively, are working closely with Rahul Gandhi. Shah again said that the polls will determine whether casteism or ‘development’ will win.

Interestingly Rahul Gandhi has been attacking the BJP entirely on development, economic issues such as the adverse impact on the economy by the PM’s pet issues of GST and demonetisation. He said at one of his meetings in Gujarat, ““There are two truths. The first is of the people of Gujarat and the second what is said by leaders of BJP. Gujarat’s truth has nothing to do with the truth of BJP. Gujarat’s truth is the unemployment of its youth, expensive healthcare, expensive education, corruption and land grabbing.”

And again “Gujarat’s truth is the bullets fired on Patidars, the lathis in Una and unemployment among tribals. BJP’s truth is the benefit of the biggest industrialists, taking away land and water.”