In a first, Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday launched his hi-tech election campaign by addressing rallies in four cities simultaneously.
His speech was telecast on specially erected screens in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Rajkot and Surat with the help of 3D holographic technology and satellite link-ups while Modi spoke from a studio in Gandhinagar.
The CM claimed it was for the first time in the world that an election campaign was being launched using 3D technology and telecast in four places. “You are witnessing a unique and first-ever incident,” he said.
At the Ahmedabad gathering, BJP MP and former cricketer Navjot Singh Siddhu, former minister and Modi’s close aide Amit Shah and BJP national vice-president Purushottam Rupala were present along with other ministers and leaders.
Modi’s image, projected on screens in four places, was clear, but there were some technical glitches.
To begin with, the event started an hour late. As the crowd became restive, Modi appeared on the screen, having a sip of water, looking straight.
He looked thinner and drummed on his fingers as the Vanthambhyu Gujarat number played before his speech. However, barely 20 minutes later, as Modi began to celebrate the advances of technology in “progressive Gujarat” and began telling people how distances did not matter as “he lived in their hearts and they in his”, the audio went off.
In Ahmedabad, more than five dozen speakers hung over the stage blaring patriotic songs sung live by a band of musicians as people waited for Modi. All the 7,500-odd chairs were occupied by 6 pm. Around 7:20 pm, Modi “appeared” on the stage amid a loud applause. As he waved hands and walked to his left and right side smiling, a silence fell on the venue at Ankur crossroads in Naranpura, a BJP stronghold.
When Modi went mute due to technical glitches, the crowd laughed and gasped at the same time. They seemed most amused by Modi sipping water.
Audio output was lost at least three times at all the venues.
However, the crowd was in a mood to forgive, having given up a Sunday evening for this experience.
“I could not see any difference. It was Modi only, though he was not there. It was wonderful,” said 55-year-old Nagaji Archanbhai Thakore, a BJP office-bearer who had come from Patan district to see Modi’s 3D avatar.
In Vadodara, crowd jeered and cheered during the audio black-outs. Towards the end of his speech, similar technical glitch occurred and audio was not on for almost 10 minutes.
“The technology was being tested for the first time and so glitches are acceptable. He (Modi) was as appealing in 3D as he is while being physically present on stage,” said Vaibha Panchal (19), an engineering student from Vadodara.
Aruna Shukla (58), a housewife, said, “I could connect with Modi through this medium as well. He can campaign through this medium if he does not have time to come to Vadodara.”
In Rajkot, a disappointed college student, Vinod Shishangiya, said, “They couldn’t manage well.”
Senior BJP leader Vijay Rupani had to take mike and explain how problem in satellite transmission had interrupted the event.
For 20-year-old Vyoma Shah, who is a first-time voter, it was also the first outing to any political event. “It’s on a Sunday evening, so we thought we could listen to CM before voting for the first time.”
At the venue in Surat, city BJP leaders, MPs, MLAs and office-bearers were seen with their family members.
NamoTV, which was also telecasting the event live, went off air completely when the audio blacked out at the four venues the first time.
In his speech, Modi lashed out at Congress for comparing him to “monkey” and “rats”, saying he took pride in being called so since both these creatures were “messengers of God”.
Dismissing the allegations of giving away grazing lands to corporates, Modi claimed he had allocated only the waste land.
“My government has mostly allocated waste land in coastal area, whereas 90 per cent of the land allocated by Congress governments is grazing land, that too fertile land in south Gujarat,” he said.
Engineering education in the state was the cheapest in “whole world”, he claimed. “I can proudly say that in Gujarat, engineering education is the cheapest in the whole world. In our state it costs only Rs 1,500, where in Rajasthan, under Congress rule, it costs more then Rs 44,000,” Modi said.
On three important social indicators, viz life expectancy at birth (LEB), mean years of schooling (MYS) and school life expectancy (SLE), Gujarat is far behind some other states. In Gujarat, the LEB during 2002-06 was 64.1 years and it ranked ninth among major Indian states. In the areas of MYS and SLE, during 2004-05, it ranked seventh and ninth, respectively. Kerala ranked first in all three indicators. Even Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka performed much better than Gujarat.
For the last several years, Modi has been successful in projecting his "vibrant Gujarat" as a role model of economic growth and himself as ''Vikas Purush". Though one must give due credit to Modi for his effective skills in making projections, one must also critically analyse this "growth story of Gujarat" based on facts and figures. Regretfully, as one examines the facts since Modi came to power in Gujarat in 2001, the story appears to be hollow and, at times, contrary to what is being projected.
Thank goodness for Modi!