Even since Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was anointed as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for 2014 General Elections in September last year, he has been on a whirlwind tour of the country, addressing a rally in Uttar Pradesh one day and another in Kerala the next day. Modi has made sure that no part of the country is left unvisited by him, even if it’s the Northeast where the BJP does not have much of a presence.
Though Modi campaigned in the Assembly elections in December last year, the momentum has picked up in recent times, with Lok Sabha polls scheduled to be held in April and May. Gujarat CM’s rallies have seen the presence of massive crowds numbering into lakhs. This has given hope to the BJP`s rank and file and its leaders that the so called Modi wave will help them cross the finishing line and assist the party in getting back to power at the Centre after a decade.
After 2004, when incumbent PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost the elections, 2014 is being touted as being the most humongous and the most ambitious of BJP’s campaign exercises. Here is a look at the key highlights of Gujarat CM’s rallies and what goes on behind the scenes –
Modi is said to have an efficient team of core members who oversee all the details of his rallies with war-like precision. Modi’s chief principal secretary is K Kailashnathan, an ex-IAS officer. His most trusted lieutenant in Maharashtra is said to be BJP MLA Mangal Prabhat, Sushil Kumar Modi in Bihar, Dharmendra Pradhan in Odisha, Capt Abhimanyu in Haryana and BL Santosh in Karnataka amongst others.
And of course, there is Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, who is considered a master strategist and close to Modi, and Amit Shah, former Gujarat Home Minister and now in-charge of key state of Uttar Pradesh. Shah is said to be one of Modi’s closest confidant.
Research for the rallies
It is said that the venue for Modi’s rallies is chosen after much deliberation. The content of the speech is also said to be discussed threadbare. In most of the rallies that the BJP’s PM candidate addresses which are particularly not in North India, he usually begins with a few sentences in local dialect. Addressing local issues is also an important part of his rallies. For example, the condition of the sugarcane farmers in western Uttar Pradesh and the plight of apple growers in Himachal Pradesh.
Though Modi is considered a good orator and does not read from a script, he is also reported to have a battery of researchers, ranging from academicians to engineers to management guys who provide him with information pertaining to the place he is visiting. Then there are pro-Modi professionals like Prashant Kishore, who set up Citizens for Accountable Governance, which mainly advises the Gujarat CM on policy matters and strategy.
Selling Gujarat’s development model
Modi in rallies after rallies has pushed his Gujarat model of development to the people of India. He often gives various examples to showcase the work done by his party in Gujarat, like the supply of 24-hour electricity and the connectivity of all parts of the state through good roads, to drive home his point. In states like Uttar Pradesh, Modi has taken on Samajwadi Party and Mulayam Singh Yadav on the state`s backwardness and high employment rates and has challenged them to transform UP into Gujarat. And in states like Bihar, he has talked about the potential of the locals and the need to pull them out of the BIMARU states tag.
Taking on the Congress
One constant feature of Modi’s rallies has been his clarion call of ‘Congress mukht bharat’. He has slammed the grand old party on the issue of corruption, scams, price rise, inflation and policy paralysis. He has also exhorted the public to give him 60 months as against 60 years that they have given to the Congress.
He calls Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi by the name of ‘Shahzada’ and has taken on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh head on, accusing him of being a weak PM. It is often said in media debates that Manmohan Singh is perhaps the best campaign manager for Modi.
Army of volunteers
BJP is reported to have roped in volunteers, numbering in lakhs, who are not necessarily party-workers but are working round the clock to spread the Modi message amongst common people and across social network. Some of them are said to have taken a sabbatical from their jobs to work in BJP’s IT cell. They collect funds for ‘Modi 4 PM’ and organise street discussions to persuade people to vote for Modi. ‘Namo chai party’ and ‘Chai pe Charcha’ are examples of effort being undertaken in taking the Modi message forward. Along the way, there is also a constant effort to rope in more volunteers. Plus, thousands of offices have been opened in more than 100 districts to look after and push Modi’s campaign.
Use of the social media
BJP’s IT cell is said to look after Modi’s campaign on the social media. A newly formed IT cell – National Digitals Operations Cell – focuses on the urban areas where the impact of the social media is considered huge and where the online users can be influenced to vote for Modi. Also, most of Modi’s key statements made during a rally are tweeted live on micro-blogging site Twitter and also put on Facebook, along with photos. Also, his speeches can be heard live on cell phones through an automated number, for which one has to pay. There is also a new caller tune available – Modi aane wala hai – which has been created for BJP’s Mission 272+.
Then there are independent groups like ‘I support NaMo’ page. A point to be noted is that Modi is the most followed politician on Twitter (more than three million) and the most liked Indian leader on Facebook (more than 10 million) as per the data available.
Most of Modi’s rallies are covered live by television channels, especially by the national channels, courtesy feed provided by the BJP. BJP’s YuvaiTv internet channel also broadcasts his speeches live.
It is said that Modi is very particular about his personal appearance while addressing a rally. He is always seen dressed in a well-fitted kurta teamed with a churidar. Whereas in winters he was seen wearing full-sleeves kurtas along with a half-sleeves jacket (never a blazer or a pullover), he is often spotted wearing a half-sleeve kurta in summers, which is considered his trademark. A watch on one hand and a black thread on the other are his other trademarks.
Most of Modi’s rallies have a name. For example, Hunkar rally in Patna and Vijay Shankhnaad rally in Lucknow.
Not to miss is the fact that much before a rally is to take place at a particular venue, various merchandise are distributed and sold which showcase Modi as a brand. These include Modi caps, scarves, pens, badges and T-Shirts among other things.