RSS base Nagpur waits blossoming of lotus sans Modi effect
Chakradhar Behera | 16 May 2014

Nagpur, the city of many socio-religious movements and the head quarter of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is likely to see a major shift in traditional voting pattern, which always favoured the Congress Party. BJP candidate and former party national president Nitin Gadkari has managed to place a well advised social engineering strategy to gain the decisive support from the minority communities, which were traditionally vote bank for the Congress Party.

It is learnt that keeping away Narendra Modi from campaigning in Nagpur was also part of the social engineering strategy in consultation with the RSS to woo specially the Muslim voters. The Congress party won Nagpur Lok Sabha seat in all the elections except the 1996 General Elections, when the BJP won for the first time from here. However, that win could not last for long and in the mid-term election in 1998, it again went to the Congress Party. The sitting Member of Parliament and the Congress party candidate Vilas Muttemwar has been elected to the lower house for seven times and four consecutive terms from Nagpur since 1998 itself.

The presence of sizable Muslim-Dalit voters played decisive factor all time making Nagpur a Congress bastion, although RSS, the ideologue base of BJP operates from the city of orange. The BJP and Sangh Parivar's desperate social engineering strategy projected Nitin Gadkari as a development man instead of the county wide Modi wave.

“We were relieved that Modi was not allowed to campaign in Nagpur, which boosted our morale to persuade more Muslims to support BJP”, said a jolly Sheikh Khairu alias Khairu Bhai (62), Nagpur city BJP minority cell leader and a self claimed cadre of RSS. People across all communities accept Nitin Gadkari for his clean image and contribution towards development of the local area, he asserted. Khairu bhai claimed that out of total 6,500 voters in his Taj Nagar locality in North Nagpur, nearly 50 percent of the voters have supported BJP for the first time.

“Had the BJP not declared Narendra Modi its Prime Ministerial Candidate, we could have supported openly for the BJP, although much of the support yielded for Gadkari's personal image”, said Irshad Hussain (55), a small businessman of Kalamana area of North Nagpur. He estimated that nearly 3,500 votes have gone in favour of BJP from the total 9,000 Muslim voters in his locality, in which most of them voted for BJP for the first time.

“The Muslims usually prefer to vote for Congress Party but this time many have shifted wooing to Gadkari's candidature”, admitted Akila Bano (47) a Congress supporter in Taj Nagar area. “Gadkari, although belongs RSS, never played communal and divisive politics like Modi”, she explained.

Among the total 18.5 lakh voters in Nagpur Lok Sabha constituency nearly 10 lakh are from Muslim and Dalit communities. Considering the good voting turnout this time, “We could expect that nearly 60 per cent of the Dalit and Muslim votes gone in favour of BJP, which was always going to the Congress”, estimated Awak Baante, a social activist associated with the city based Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhay institute of Medical Science and Human Resources. “Such new voting pattern in favour of BJP could be only be attributed to Gadkari’s personal image only, nothing to the so called Modi wave”, he said.

Since Gadkari is known as Bridgekari (Bridge Maker) and approachable to all sections of the people, so he commands support even from those who traditionally vote to other parties, added Dr. Milind Mane, an ex-municipal corporator from the Republican Party of India (RPI), who claimed to have voted BJP this election for the first time in his life.

Dalits in Nagpur are mostly Budhists and traditionally support the Bahujan Samaj Party, Congress and RPI, but in this election they have also came in favour of the BJP for the first time. “Nearly 30 percent of Dalits have voted in favour of Gadkari”, claimed Anand Choure, a Dalit activist belonging to the Pantheer Sena, a social organisation.

Many Dalits and Budhists organizations came openly in support of Gadkari, not because of BJP, he added saying that could play the decisive factor in his victory against Congress candidate Muttemwar.

There are also many other factors that could have fetched huge support in favour of Gadkari. Besides, Gadkari's personal image, he is credited for construction of first cement road and flyovers in Nagpur. During his tenure as PWD minister in the BJP-Shiv Sena Government, he was instrumental in construction of many cemented roads and flyovers across the state. So, popularly he is called “Bridgekari” and “Roadkari”.

The anti incumbency factor is also likely to damage Muttemwar's wining possibilities, who is trying hard to get elected for the eighth time. He won from Nagpur four times and three times from the previous Chimur constituency, which is now renamed to Gadchiroli-Chimur Lok Sabha constituency.

There is also a sympathetic wave swinging in favour of Gadkari as he is fighting the first ever election for the Lok Sabha in his political career. Though he was elevated to the national platform of BJP as its president in 2009, but never represented either of the houses in the Parliament. It was 29 years ago; he fought a losing election in the 1985 Assembly election from west Nagpur constituency.

The changing political equation, good voting turnout and well managed social engineering strategies are likely to benefit Gadkari to make his debut in the Lok Sabha.