India: Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Modi clocks nearly as many miles in 2019 as in 2014 polls
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2019 poll campaign mirrors his 2014 general election debut in terms of the ground he has covered through public meetings and rallies.
Though Modi conducted 425 rallies between September 2013 and May 10, 2014 (the last day of campaigning during the previous general election), this time around, he kick-started his rallies on March 28, addressing one in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh.
However, the 68-year-old prime minister has still, on average, managed to hold two rallies a day — comparable to his 2014 poll campaign. Indeed, on some days, Modi has conducted as many as three in different states, such as on Aprill 20, when the prime minister held rallies in Forbesganj in Bihar, South Dinajpur district in West Bengal and Etah in Uttar Pradesh.
By the time his campaign ends on May 17 (the last phase of polling in the multi-phased 2019 Lok Sabha elections is on May 19), he is expected to have addressed 130-odd public meetings, according to senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Modi began holding public meetings within days of being declared the prime ministerial candidate on September 13, 2014. His first public outing took place in Rewari, Haryana.
“Modi has spoken at 107 rallies so far,” a party leader said of Modi’s 2019 campaign trail.
This includes the prime minister’s three public meetings in Bihar (at Valmiki Nagar) and Uttar Pradesh (Pratapgarh and Basti) on May 4, the last day of campaigning for the fifth round of polling that took place on Monday.
“Two more rounds of polling (May 12 and 19) are left, and Modi will speak at about two dozen more rallies covering Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh,” another senior party leader said.
Though he started towards the end of March, Modi has held rallies in almost all states, including in the Northeast, in West Bengal, and in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, among others.
While West Bengal’s 42 seats, Bihar’s 40 seats and Uttar Pradesh’s 80 will see polling across all seven phases, Himachal Pradesh’s four seats will go to polls in one go, on May 19.
The BJP won 282 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha in 2014, becoming the first political party in 30 years to win a majority on its own.
With limited time to campaign, the BJP formed a cluster of two or three parliamentary seats of a particular region in a state which Modi addressed, with candidates on the dais present with him, said the second party leader.
“Narendra Modi is certainly the principal campaigner and the vote catcher for the BJP. In the last five years, as prime minister, his popularity has further skyrocketed making him the most popular political leader of the country in a long time. Modi magic is evident all over the country and the present election campaign is built around the persona and performance of Narendra Modi,” said BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP GVL Narasimha Rao.
“Modi’s energy keeps the BJP supporters engaged. There is no doubt he is BJP’s most popular leader, and a campaigner who can draw more crowds than any other leader of the ruling party,” said Sidharth Mishra, president of the New Delhi-based Centre for Reforms, Development and Justice.
“Modi of 2019 has to compete with Modi of 2014, who pulled off a spectacular victory for the BJP. Only results will tell if he remains as popular as he was in the last parliamentary election,” Mishra said.
“India is a country which likes to see its heroes live in action. To be able to see them in flesh and blood, makes a world of a difference, be it an actor, a cricketer and even the prime minister. For the rural masses, who’ve mostly seen Modi on tv or in newspapers on a daily basis, these rallies allow him to come to the ground level,” said Priti Nair, director at advertising agency Curry-Nation. “His aura and showmanship is evident even after he gave his vote in Gujarat and walked out, it felt like an event. Besides that he has spent a large part of his tenure travelling outside the country, so right now he’s trying to stay connected to the people so they continue to believe in him.”