Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to address close to 40 rallies in poll-bound Bihar, the highest in any Assembly election since the NDA’s Lok Sabha victory in May 2014.
Modi has so far addressed 11 rallies in Bihar over 4 days. The PM, according to sources in the BJP, has kept aside 12 days for campaigning in the state. At the rate of about four rallies a day and making up for some travel time in between, party strategists are looking at a final tally of 40, close to 30 of them in the next four phases. “We are tentatively looking at a total of 40 rallies in the state, though after the first phase the feedback is that we are well-placed so may be the final number will be slightly lower. It will depend on how the party fares in the next few phases,” said a source in the party.
Compare the Bihar rally target with Modi’s rallies in the last few Vidhan Sabha elections, and the contrast is stark. In the run-up to the elections to the 288-seat Maharashtra Assembly in 2014, Modi addressed 27 rallies. In Haryana, which has 90 Assembly seats, Modi addressed 11 rallies. Late last year, ahead of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections, where BJP contested 57 seats, he addressed four rallies. In Delhi earlier this year, Modi addressed five rallies, one of which was just before the announcement of the poll date which means in EC records it is not an election rally. There are 70 Assembly seats in Delhi.
Bihar, in many ways, is a prestige fight for BJP that is smarting under the crushing defeat of Delhi, and the party has made it clear to its rank and file that no stone will be left unturned in the quest for a win in the state. A clutch of ministers including Kalraj Mishra, Niranjan Jyoti, Radha Mohan Singh, Giriraj Singh, J P Nadda, Dharmendra Pradhan and Ananth Kumar had camped in the state before the first phase, having extended their period of stay following internal survey reports which indicate that the caste equation may not be going BJP’s way.
Besides, the decision to go without a CM-face could end up being a hindrance given the clean image of Nitish Kumar and his track record in development — BJP’s principal poll plank. Central leaders have been asked to plan campaigns and election strategy down to the last detail.
The scale of Modi’s engagement in Bihar can be compared only with the campaign blitzkrieg that the BJP had unleashed with him at the helm in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls. Between September 2013 and March 2014, Modi had addressed 5,827 gatherings of which 38 were buildup rallies, 196 were Bharat Vijay rallies, 241 smaller rallies, 1,350 3D rallies, 4,000 chai pe charchas and two road shows in Vadodara and Varanasi where he had himself been a candidate.