AHMEDABAD:It was one of the many posts that 20-year-old civil engineering student Sagar Savalia had uploaded on his Facebook page. He had spotted a photograph of a new state transport bus, with its wheels off. He shared the photo with a tagline, Vikas Gando Thayu Che, or Development has gone crazy, playing on the much talked about Gujarat model of development. Sagar Savalia figured he had cracked the code when “on the very first day (23 August), it got 200 likes”.
That was the beginning.
In less than a month, the tagline has become the theme of the opposition’s campaign against the BJP in Gujarat just months ahead of the assembly elections later this year. There are memes, innovative images, satirical videos and even some garba dance songs for Navratri around this one line, a parody of the government’s winning theme – the Gujarat model of development.
Somewhere it struck a chord with the youth and almost every attempt by the state’s BJP leaders to counter the campaign boomeranged. But it didn’t happen on its own.
The social media team at the outfit led by Hardik Patel, who Sagar calls his mentor, was the first to pick it up. Varun Patel, the spokesman of Patidar Anmat Andolan Samiti, talks about how their social media team had aggressively spread the word. “Each of our social media team members has at least 200 WhatsApp groups… some even up to 500 and 1000 groups,” he said.
The Congress joined in soon after, putting out pictures of potholes after the recent rains with the same tagline. “We are connected on Twitter and through… about 2,000 odd WhatsApp groups and even more… We are multiplying the effect,” said Hiren Banker, Vice President of the state Congress’s IT cell.
For now, the campaign has the BJP on a back-foot, a sharp contrast to the 2012 assembly elections when then Chief Minister Narendra Modi had made powerful use of social media in his winning campaign against the Congress.
In Gujarat, BJP president Amit Shah made it a point to respond to the Congress campaign about potholes and promised they would be repaired as soon as the rains stop. He also urged the state’s youth not to fall prey to what he said was the Congress’ “anti-BJP propaganda” on social media.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is the BJP’s election in-charge for Gujarat, alluded to the campaign when he spoke at a party meet on Sunday. “I have heard that people these days are making fun of development. Even when train services were started in the country, people had made fun of it claiming that better connectivity would mean people moving out of homes for better prospects and splitting families,” he said.