Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s yoga session with over 50,000 people at the Ramabai Rally Ground in Lucknow early Wednesday morning on the occasion of International Day of Yoga will be his first public event in the Uttar Pradesh capital after the formation of a BJP-led government in the state three months ago.
UP played a crucial role in the victory of the BJP-led NDA government at Centre in 2014, and the election of a BJP-led government with an overwhelming majority in the state this March leaves the party facing the daunting task of keeping its support base intact till the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. BJP governments in the state as well as at the Centre pose the risk of anti-incumbency feelings towards the party in the next two years.
As development projects take time to materialise, keeping in touch with the electorate and popularising the party ideology remain key objectives to retain mass support. With dozens of rallies and public appearances in the last three years, the PM has tried to keep the lines of communication open between him and the public.
More than anything else, the party needs to promote its ideology. The appointment of Yogi Adityanath as chief minister helped the party’s campaign to popularise Hindutva. The Prime Minister’s participation in Aishbagh Ramlila on Dussehra last year was seen as a step in that direction and now International Yoga Day offers a similar opportunity. Previous governments in the state led by Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav had avoided associating themselves with yoga.
In contrast, the UP government is now highlighting Wednesday’s event as a matter of pride for the state and Modi as someone who has brought global recognition to the country through yoga.
Modi will reach Lucknow on Tuesday afternoon and attend two programmes at the Central Drug Research Institute and APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University. Later in the evening, he is expected to dine at 5 Kalidas Marg, the residence of the chief minister. Other than a brief appearance at Adityanath’s swearing-in ceremony in March, Modi has not visited Lucknow since Adityanath became the face of BJP in the state.
Modi’s visit is also being seen as an on the spot stock-taking of Adityanath’s government which has faced a number of issues since then, the Thakur-Dalit violence in Saharanpur being the most worrying for the party. With its success in the last two elections linked largely to the expansion of its support base to social groups beyond its traditional vote bank among upper castes, such frictions have the potential to dent it politically.