Gujarat may be sending only 26 MPs to the Parliament. Nonetheless, how important the state is for both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress in the 2019 general elections can be gauged from the number of high profile political visits that will be made to the state within a week.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is already in Gujarat. BJP national president Amit Shah will be in the state for two days from Friday. Next in line is Congress president Rahul Gandhi who will be in the state on July 16 and 17. This will be followed by a visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 20.
Call it a coincidence or a planned strategy, the focus of all the four leaders is the Saurashtra region, which sends 54 MLAs to the state assembly. In the 2017 assembly elections, the Congress fared well in the region while the saffron party's performance was less than encouraging.
Bhagwat is in Somnath, the famous temple town of Lord Shiva, for the RSS' three-day Akhil Bharatiya Prant Pracharak meet beginning from July 15. RSS general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi and several other top RSS leaders will attend the event.
On his arrival at the Rajkot Airport on Wednesday, the RSS chief made a strange statement. “I will lose my job if I speak,” he said, when some journalists asked him to stop for a minute.
On Thursday, Bhagwat offered prayers at the Somnath Temple. He was accompanied by former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel.
Amit Shah will arrive in the state on Friday and there are reports that he may travel to Somnath to meet Bhagwat. On Saturday, the BJP chief will perform 'mangla aarti' before the annual procession of Lord Jagannath. He is expected to meet top BJP leaders in the state and attend a youth summit at Karnavati University in Gandhinagar.
Rahul Gandhi will visit Alang Ship Breaking Yard near Bhavnagar and and address workers, focusing on the problems faced by them. He will also meet traders and businessmen of the region. Later, the Congress chief will hold meetings with his party workers in Amreli district, a key area in Saurashtra. Paresh Dhanani, leader of the opposition, represents Amreli constituency in the assembly.
During his visit to the state on July 20, PM Modi will dedicate two lakh houses built under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna at a function to be held in Valsad. The PM will then visit Junagadh, Saurashtra region where he will take part in various programmes. Modi will also be present at the convocation ceremony of the Gujarat Forensic Science University.