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First-time contestant Piyush Goyal sure of winning -- on back of Modi work and wave

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Mumbai, May 15 (PTI) Union minister Piyush Goyal, contesting a Lok Sabha election for the first time, asserted on Wednesday that he will surely win -- but almost entirely because of the work done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, adding that this election will determine the fate of India.

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“I recognise that we are all subsumed under Mr Modi's performance… It is gradually dawning on people that this is Modi's election,” Goyal told PTI during a road show - a slow crawling journey atop a decked up pickup truck that wound its way through a ward of Borivali in the Mumbai North constituency.

Goyal, a Rajya Sabha member and a veteran manager of many an election campaign, including that of Lal Krishna Advani in 1989, replaced incumbent Gopal Shetty as BJP's candidate for the constituency. The elections are due on May 20.

With four days left for campaigning, which ends on the evening of May 18, Goyal is crisscrossing all the assembly segments of the constituency every day in his truck in a set pattern: every morning, a few hundred party workers wearing orange caps, BJP scarves hanging down their shoulders and lotus sticker on their clothing, gather at the starting point of the road show.

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Enthusiasm builds up before Goyal arrives. Drums and cymbals are beaten vigorously amid slogans of “abki baar 400 paar”, the call given by Modi himself to assert that the BJP-led NDA coalition will win more than 400 seats, even though the opposition has repeatedly said it is an impossible target.

But nobody is in doubt that the elections are being contested in the name of Modi, and the local candidate’s work and reputation are incidental.

Ankita Jaiswal, a second year bachelor's degree student, and her sister came to join the road show wearing the BJP sartorial requirement. Asked why she would vote for BJP, the answer came instantly, “It is for Modi ji. Piyush ji is also there but we are voting for Modi ji.” The sentiment is not lost on Goyal, even though one hour with him on the truck appears to show that he also enjoys popular support. People in apartment blocks along the road record videos on their phones and wave at him from their windows, elated every time they make eye contact with him and he responds. Whenever his vehicle stops at designated places, people shower petals at him, garland him.

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A non-stop commentary is issued by a man on a loudspeaker, enumerating the qualities of Goyal - a law graduate, a top notch chartered accountant, an investment banker, the man who gave them LED bulbs (as power minister) and the man who gave them more comfortable rail travel (as railway minister). He delivers the accolade in Marathi and then Gujarati.

“Modi's guarantee is Piyush Goyal's guarantee,” he bellows.

Atop the truck, talking to PTI in a hoarse voice to shout over the din down below, Goyal remains modest.

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“The entire North Mumbai stands solidly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The way Mr Modi has taken the country to newer heights... that has raised the bar, raised the expectations,” he said.

Mumbai North comprises six assembly segments, four of which are held by the BJP and another by ally Shiv Sena. Only Malad assembly constituency, which has a sizable population of Muslims, is with the Congress. Goyal is sure he will sweep Malad also.

“The minorities are also with us. They also realise that Modi is one leader who ensures that benefits reach the common man without discrimination -- his assurance that everybody has got a right to a good future irrespective of religion, faith, caste creed or for that matter the colour of his skin,” said Goyal.

In that comment, he finds an opportunity to throw a barb at the Congress’ Sam Pitroda who recently said that India is a composite of people who look like Chinese, Africans, Caucasians or Arabs depending on which part of the country they live in.

“I am an Arab by the logic of Rahul Gandhi and his advisers. I am an Arab being a Maharashtrian,” Goyal chuckles. PTI VJ VT MIN MIN

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