Narendra Modi, the face of the BJP effort in both Maharashtra and Haryana, will campaign every day from October 4 to 13, addressing between 22 and 26 rallies in the two states.
The showpiece event of the opening day will be at Mumbai’s Mahalaxmi Race Course, the very venue where Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray held his first rally after the alliance split last week. It will be the “mother of all rallies”, Mumbai BJP leaders say. “After Madison Square Garden, it’s going to be Mahalaxmi Race Course,” said candidate Mangal Prabhat Lodha.
With the party having no chief ministerial candidate in either state, the campaign will be centred around Modi’s image as an agent of development. The slogan will be “Chalo chale Modi ke saath.” He is the only BJP leader who will figure in posters and advertisements released by the party.
“Our main agenda is good governance and development,” said BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. And spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “Modi represents development and the new dispensation, which is full of enthusiasm and new opportunities. Our focus will be misgovernance in these states against good governance in BJP-ruled states.”
The choice of the Mumbai venue is strategic after Uddhav targeted the BJP for the split and spoke of alleged efforts to undermine Mumbai’s stature. “The Shiv Sena will never allow anyone to undermine the interests of Mumbai and Maharashtra. I decided to hold the rally at Mahalaxmi Race Course because it’s at the heart of the financial capital of India,” Uddhav had said.
“The BJP wants to send out a message of a global Maharashtra. The PM’s speech will stress the cosmopolitan nature of Mumbai as the financial capital to counter the Sena’s emotive plank,” said a Mumbai BJP leader. The BJP campaign will not target the Sena aggressively, keeping alive the option of reviving the alliance after the polls.
The Congress too has played on Marathi sentiment, with Narayan Rane having said, “An attempt is being made by leaders of Gujarat to wean away investors from Mumbai to Ahmedabad.” State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis responded to the Congress allegation: “The Congress is trying to divide the communities (Gujaratis and Marathis) with these baseless allegations. Mumbai will remain the financial capital.”
Before reaching Mumbai, Modi will visit the Mahalaxmi temple in Kolhapur. He will hold a public meeting at Beed, Gopinath Munde’s seat.