He struck the right note. Wearing a traditional Arunachali hat, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi spoke emotionally about the death of Nido Taniam ( also spelt as Taniam), Arunachal’s ‘son’ in Delhi, vowing to ensure that there would be no discrimination against people from the Northeast.
This would have assuaged the hurt sentiments of people in the region, long used to being ignored at best and misunderstood at worst.
It was in Arunachal Pradesh that Mr Modi launched the first salvo on foreign policy, something his critics have accused him of being ignorant of. His target was China, which has long claimed Arunachal Pradesh as its own.
Beijing should give up its expansionist plans, said Mr Modi, praising the Arunachalis for defending the frontiers of the state. We have yet to see any major political personality taking up the cause of the Northeast in the Northeast.
The BJP’s backroom boys are clearly on top of their game. The Northeast may not have a huge number of seats in the Lok Sabha, but in such an uncertain election, every seat counts. It must be heartening for the Northeast, which has been wary of the BJP with its Hindutva leanings, to see Mr Modi weighing in so publicly on their side.
The warning to China is not likely to have Beijing shaking in its boots, but the message is that a Modi-led government is not going to bend over backwards to please the Asian giant. The Americans, after treating him like a pariah, seem to have sent their ambassador calling on Mr Modi as a first step. No country can afford to ignore a prime ministerial candidate of a country as important as India. In contrast, other parties have been slow off the starting blocks on foreign policy.
Now foreign policy may not be a crucial factor in bringing in votes. But a PM candidate has to have an opinion on it, especially on neighbours with whom India does not have a very easy relationship. If atmospherics are any indication, the BJP is far ahead in the game.
In Ludhiana, Mr Modi, in a turban, was very much in his element, backed by the BJP’s ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal. Mr Modi had moved out of the Hindi heartland early on and gone to the south and east to address mammoth rallies. At each venue, he has come up with the sound bites that the crowds want to hear, speaking a smattering of Bengali in Kolkata to the delight of the locals. Critics may say this is all cosmetic, but it is certainly sending his popularity soaring.