Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday took Hemant Soren on today, addressing rallies in both Dumka and Barhait, the constituencies the Jharkhand CM is contesting from.
It was a tacit acknowledgement that Hemant has grown big enough to warrant the BJP’s undivided attention. The BJP holds only two seats in the 16 constituencies voting in the last phase on December 20; the JMM holds 10.
Speaking at Dumka, a seat already with Hemant, Modi used the baap-bete reference only once. But at Barhait, which pitches Hemant against JMM defector Hemlal Murmu, Modi was more combative: “This baap-bete will not let anyone get ahead.” It has become a strategy for Modi to attack a rival anywhere but in his stronghold. The strategy could still backfire if Hemant wins both seats. “We are willing to take that chance. The important thing is to show we are not afraid,” said a member of the BJP’s campaign team.
At Dumka, Modi seemed to be conscious of the fine line: “If a child makes a mistake, will his mother reward him with a laddoo? Won’t the mother punish the child?” He went on to suggest that voters should punish the Sorens. “Even if you like them, you should vote for the BJP… Punish them now so that they will be of use to you five years later.”
The BJP’s Dumka candidate, Louis Marandi, bowed in welcome after gifting Modi a traditional Santhali shawl; Modi too bowed. The administration had planned for a crowd of 50,000; over a lakh turned up, according to a source with access to the SPG’s assessment.
The Prime Minister began with a greeting in Santhali and performed the johar, clutching the right elbow and touching the forehead with a clenched right first. The BJP is seeking to bring together the adivasis into its vote base of Santhal Pargana’s “outsiders” to breach the JMM stronghold. “I am willing to give my life for the welfare of my poor adivasis,” the PM said. His proclamations on adivasis received a lukewarm response from the audience, but the mention of jobs drew cheers.