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Parties woo Gujarat voters with freebies

Mahesh Trivedi / 7 December 2012

AHMEDABAD — Campaigning for the December 13 and 17 assembly elections in Gujarat reached fever pitch on Tuesday as politicalparties,
especially the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, started free distribution of novel souvenirs to woo the 38 million voters.

Having released their manifestos in the last two days, the ruling BJP and the Congress now gave away these eye-catching goodies at their packed election rallies and their candidates handed over sets of these items to the electors while shaking hands and kissing babies along their campaign trail.

BJP leaders have been generous in offering hampers containing t-shirts, wristbands, friendship bands, headbands, balloons, shades, tattoos, a paper megaphone, mobile case and a hanger and, of course, masks of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, which were used during the party’s 2007 poll campaign as well as in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and were a smash hit, creating a mass hysteria.

The 50-odd BJP freebies also include a paper mitten which has a photo of Modi on one side and party slogan on the other — a spoof on the Congress’s hand symbol.

For women, the goodies include a hair clips, combs, ‘mangalsutras’ and purses, all in the signature saffron colour. Gujarat BJP media coordinator Jagdish Bhavsar told Khaleej Times that the gift items had been selected and finalised by a team of marketing experts after surveys and feedback from voters, and admitted that some goodies like Modi masks were also being sold for nominal prices.

While the BJP has a list of 49 such items, Congress too has a similar range of items that have been designed keeping in mind the changing tastes of voters. The Congress website sported samples of two mugs as its poll accessories.

Congress items inlcude hanging lamp shades, coffee mugs, small pamphlets and tiny banners specially made for offices and homes. Parties have refused to disclose the amount spent on these items, but claimed the expenditure was very much within the model code of conduct.    — mahesh@khaleejtiems.com

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