Crucial test for BJP leadership
Narendra Modi was within his rights to take out a day long roadshow in Varanasi to reach out to the voters and urge them to ameliorate his personal prestige by voting for the BJP candidates from the region. More than any other leader of any other party it is the personal stature and reputation of Modi that has been at stake in Uttar Pradesh. Basically that has been the reason that Modi has been visiting the state every day and addressing the election rallies. His electoral itinerary provides clear impression that he does not trust himself. He has no confidence on his speeches.
Pollsters recall that how the former prime minister and BJP patriarch, Atal Behari Vajpayee used to campaign for his party in the state elections. His one meeting in Lucknow or Patna’s Gandhi Maidan was enough to change the mood of the people. He would seek votes in his own style without abusing derogatory or abusive phrases against his adversaries. But in case of Modi it has been just reverse. The more he addresses the rallies, the people get more antagonized and turn hostile to him. The reason is he prefers to hit below the belt and indulge in gimmicks and mimicry. Je always prefers to show his adversaries and political opponents in bad light. His approach and style enthuse BJP cadres but it is disliked the common people.
India is witnessing the worst depreciation of the office of the prime minister. Being the prime minister, Narendra Modi’s one centralized meeting was enough to convey the message. But plethora of his meetings makes it abundant clear he has no confidence on himself. His Varanasi roadshow was really a matter of joke. The rally starting from the gate of the Banaras Hindu University reached to Assi ghat passing through the lanes and by-lanes of the city. Otherwise too the roads of old Banaras are not wide as a result it appeared that the show has attracted huge response.
The immediate reason for organizing the roadshow was not to ensure the victory of BJP candidates from the Eastern UP (Purvanchal). In fact the roadshow was held at the instructions of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It has asked the BJP to step up its campaign in east Uttar Pradesh, particularly Varanasi, and hold ground-level meetings to spur workers into ensuring a high turnout in the remaining two phases in the ongoing elections. Based on the ground level feedback the Sangh bosses had formed a strong view that the BJP and also Modi were not closely interacting with the Sangh cadres, general workers and voters of the area.
Sangh bosses were worried because of the slip in the turnout when the state voted in the fifth phase on February 27. Senior RSS leaders camping in Varanasi and Lucknow had conveyed to Nagpur that Sangh cadres were feeling helpless. At their internal meeting held a couple of days back the issue of averseness among the voters and decreasing turnout was discussed threadbare and described as "not a good sign for the BJP". The turnout was 64 per cent in the first phase and went up by 1 per cent in the second phase. But it came down to 61.16 per cent in the third leg and 61 per cent in the fourth before falling further to 57.36 per cent in the fifth phase on February 27.
The roadshow was organized to enthuse the voters of Purvanchal which has 89 assembly seats. A better performance and a high turnout of voters could salvage the situation. But it does not appear that the roadshow impacted the surrounding region. The public meeting of Modi at Jaunpur just after the mega roadshow was a dismal affair. The turnout was not quite impressive.
Incidentally coinciding with Modi’s roadshow, Rahul and Akhilesh had also organized their roadshow in Varanasi. What was really shocking and shameful was that most of the TV channels which covered the entire roadshow of Modi preferred to beam some entertainment programmes while the SP-Congress rally had hit the roads. Nevertheless the delight and glee on the faces of the two leaders gave the impression that has succeeded in their mission to reach out to the people of Banaras. The state will vote again on March 8, the last and seventh leg. Since the RSS has quite active in Purvanchal, the RSS has been making all out attempts to ensure the victory of the BJP candidates. It is learnt that Sangh’s joint general secretary, has convened a meeting of all the wings of the RSS from sensitive districts of Varanasi, Ghazipur, Chandauli, Bhadohi, Sonbhadra, Mirzapur and Jaunpur to finalise the strategy. A senior RSS leader nonetheless confessed that Purvanchal is of quite importance for the Sangh and they cannot leave the area to any chance.
Modi has campaigned in Varanasi and Purvanchal for three days. He has also offered prayers at the Kashi Vishwanath and Kal Bhairav temples. To the detriment to the party interest many leaders owing allegiance to senior BJP leaders like Muralai Manohar Joshi and others from this region have dissociated themselves from the election campaign.
A section of the senior leaders also nurse the view that the President Pranab Mukherjee’s emphasis for "reasoned discussion and debate" and his cautioning the nation against "propagating a culture of unrest" will have a major impact on the educated and literate population of the state. Their number is quite high in Allahabad and Varanasi. Mukherjee had pleaded for tolerance when intolerance inspired by ideology plunged educational institutions into a spiral of unrest last year. A couple of days back in the wake clashes at Delhi University he touched the same issue but this time with more force than on earlier occasions. (IPA)