Social media in Gujarat is buzzing with a campaign that parodies Narendra Modi’s claims of vikas. The campaign is called “Vikas Gando Thayo Che’’(vikas has gone crazy). Everyday, dozens of memes, jokes, video clips, etc are uploaded and circulated on social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and so on.

The posts mock and make fun of the “vikas’’ promises of the BJP. They go viral within minutes across the state and among the larger Gujarati population abroad and elsewhere in the country. The popularity of the campaign has Amit Shah worried because assembly polls are barely two months away. Just the other day, he warned voters in Gujarat not to be misled by “anti-BJP propaganda on social media’’.

Clearly, the slogan is pinching where it hurts. There was a visible impact of the campaign during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Ahmedabad. Vikas Gando Thayo Che lashed out at the BJP by posting contrasting pictures of the roads in the city. Those roads where Abe was to travel were recarpeted and smoothened just before his visit.

The rest of Ahmedabad continues to suffer potholes, broken roads, slushy puddles and heaps of garbage because the government has not attended to the growing civic mess in the city for two years.

Anti-BJP trolls had a field day with these posts mocking the development slogan which is taking on shades of the BJP’s ill-fated Shining India slogan that lost Vajpayee the 2004 Lok Sabha election. While BJP circles claim that the campaign has been orchestrated by the Congress, the latter denies that it has anything to do with it.

But the systematic manner in which the campaign is moving suggests that there is a hidden political hand. It remains to be seen whether the Congress gets any electoral benefit from the campaign’s success. Guests hit Among the worst hit by the tight security for Abe’s visit to Ahmedabad were the guests of the hotel where the two prime ministers had dinner on the first night.

The hotel was shut down by security from 2 in the afternoon till 10:30 at night without prior warning to the guests staying there. The result was that those caught in the hotel during the “curfew” had to stay inside their rooms for over eight hours while those who were out sightseeing or shopping could not get back to their rooms till late at night.

The hotel is a boutique property in a heritage house. The rooftop boasts of one of the best restaurants in Ahmedabad for Gujarati food. Modi and Abe spent about two hours tucking into Gujarati and Japanese delicacies.

The Gujarati items were prepared by the restaurant cooks while the Japanese food was made by chefs flown in from a Japanese restaurant in a top five star hotel of Delhi. Interestingly, the entire menu was vegetarian, including the Japanese food.

Overseas friends

The Congress seems to have decided to take a leaf out of Modi’s book. It is working hard to revive the International Overseas Congress after having seen the manner in which the BJP has used its Overseas Friends of BJP units across different countries to boost Modi’s image at home and abroad.

Rajiv Gandhi’s old friend Sam Pitroda was recently put in charge of the IOC with a specific brief to resurrect the defunct organization. It was Pitroda who suggested that Rahul Gandhi kick off the project with a 15-day tour of the US. Rahul’s address at the University of California in Berkeley was part of this effort.

It seems that Rahul is going to travel to other countries over the next several months to address IOC units there. Apparently, it has been decided to keep him busy abroad and leave upcoming state assembly elections to local Congress units and leaders to manage.

Elections are due in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat at the end of the year. Next year, there will be polls in Karnataka in May and at the end of the year, in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

While Himachal chief minister Virbhadra is demanding a free hand in his home state, Ahmed Patel has personally taken charge of the Gujarat campaign. Rahul and his team have been told to keep away and leave it to the local leadership. Patel has got all fired up after Amit Shah pulled out the stops to prevent his re-election to the Rajya Sabha.

Shah lost that battle and Patel is back in Parliament. But the challenge has left him determined to take his revenge in the upcoming assembly polls.

NITI Aayog tensions

NITI Aayog corridors are buzzing about the very visible tension between newly appointed chairperson Rajiv Kumar and Member economist Bibek Debroy. Apparently, the two economists don’t get on. According to sources in the organization, they are barely on speaking terms. Debroy is believed to be thinking of pulling out of NITI Aayog.

He would prefer to be appointed to another post but failing that, he is said to be ready to quit because he does not want to work under Kumar. The cause for the rivalry between the two is not known. But many recall the fight that broke out on stage during the release of Kumar’s book.

The book was a collection of Kumar’s writings. And clearly, till then, the two economists were on good terms because Kumar invited Debroy as a discussant on the panel. Much to Kumar’s shock, Debroy tore the book to shreds in his speech.

The audience too was surprised. Relations between the erstwhile friends have never been cordial after that incident. The question puzzling everyone is why the government decided to appoint Kumar as NITI Aayog chief, given the tension between him and Debroy.