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Narendra Modi still an icon, but voter has a lot else on mind

It might not prove as easy as the BJP hopes as it looks at a massive leap from four seats to an absolute majority.

Written by Varinder Bhatia | Sirsa |
Updated: October 8, 2014 11:25:02 am

After the Lok Sabha election victory in May, the BJP is once again banking solely on Narendra Modi in Haryana, the bypoll jolts in several states notwithstanding. Having decided against announcing a chief ministerial candidate, the BJP is seeking votes based on Modi’s image; the PM himself has rarely mentioned the party’s contestants at his rallies.

It might not prove as easy as the BJP hopes as it looks at a massive leap from four seats to an absolute majority in the 90-member assembly. Certain factors, though, do appear in the BJP’s favour, such as its seven-out-of-eight score in the Lok Sabha polls.

Against this is the theory that an assembly poll does not work the same way as an LS poll does. The voter has local factors to consider besides the image of one man. She often makes her choice based more on the candidate than on the party, and many BJP candidates are either rebels from other parties or new faces.

Modi has so far addressed rallies in Karnal, Hisar, Kurukshetra and Faridabad, and is due to address at least two more, in Rohtak and Sirsa. His speeches have been largely repetitive, and have not generated as much interest as his speeches as PM candidate had done. In almost every rally, he has said he does not want any “roadblock between Delhi and Haryana”, and that he will not be able to do much for development unless people give the BJP a full majority.

In the LS polls, he was able to cash in on public anger against the Congress. A widespread belief is that the same anger persists in Congress-ruled Haryana. But since coming to power, the NDA has had little to show as far as Haryana is concerned, except for central-level projects such as the Jandhan scheme, besides the tough stance on Pakistan and the commitment to improving ties with other nations.

Modi does retain his iconic status, especially among young voters who appear impressed as ever. His personal appeal is particularly strong in constituencies adjacent to National Highway-1 (Delhi-Chandigarh), which include mostly urban districts such as Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panchkula, Ambala, Panipat and Sonepat. However, local issues such as caste, too, play a vital role in these seats. And in districts such as Jhajjar, Rohtak, Mahendergarh, Sirsa, Rewari, Palwal, Mewat, Jind and Bhiwani, the rural constituencies have strong pockets of Congress and INLD support. The voter here is still caught in the conventional mindset of caste factors, local issues, the candidate’s profile and his rapport with the local people.

Modi’s opponents are attacking the BJP on the very fact that the party has not declared a chief ministerial candidate. Sushma Swaraj’s name has been doing the rounds but it has not been made official.

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