Five months after a highly successful Lok Sabha election campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is back to doing what he does best — working the crowds, wooing them with his one-liners and boundless energy. His request: absolute majority for the BJP in Maharashtra and Haryana.
Kicking off his campaign for the October 15 assembly polls on Saturday, Modi slipped easily into his role of champion vote-seeker at his first rally of the day — in the northern state’s Karnal district. Accusing the ruling Congress and opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) of neglecting farmers and promoting goondaism, he appealed to voters to give the BJP a chance.
Alleging irregularities in land allotment, he asked, “Who among the poor has got a plot? ...But where have thousands of acres of land disappeared, who has taken this? Does Haryana want to settle the account?”
In a veiled attack on the INLD, he asked the people if they would like to be governed from jail. INLD chief Om Prakash Chautala, serving a jail sentence in a corruption case but currently out on bail, had said he’d take oath as CM from Tihar.
Promising development and jobs, he hinted that Karnal may be part of his 100 smart cities project. And carrying forward his Swachh Bharat mission, he said, “We may be living in the age of Hi-Fi and Wi-Fi but safai (cleanliness) is equally important.”
Ending the day in Mumbai, he told a crowd at the Mahalaxmi Race Course, “Mumbai and Maharashtra’s growth is important for the country’s growth. I can’t leave Mumbai helpless any longer. The city is the birthplace of the BJP, which has achieved so much in such a short time.”
Attacking the ruling Congress and its ally, the NCP, but choosing to ignore former ally Shiv Sena, Modi said, “Amitabh Bachchan hosts a TV show, Kaun Banega Crorepati, but these Congress and NCP leaders have been playing Kaun Banega Arabpati all these years. Did 15 years of Congress-NCP government do any good to you, to farmers, to the poor?”
“Believe me, I can change Mumbai and Maharashtra. This is the city where most terrorist attacks happened, where most communal riots happened. Who is responsible? Do you not want to get rid of this?”
Earlier, in Beed and Aurangabad in drought-affected central Maharashtra, he appealed to voters to work towards a majority government of the BJP.
At each of his rallies, the PM also made it a point to recall his American trip, telling people, “I think small, but I think of doing big things for small people. Did India’s name ever reverberate in the US before? It did this time, not because of Modi but because of its 125 crore people.”
The audience, hanging on to Modi’s every word, didn’t have time for other speakers. Karnal MP Ashwini Kumar Chopra Minna had to leave his address mid-way after being booed. “I know you all have come to listen to Modiji, I can talk to you some other day,” he said.
Empty vessels make the most noise: Sonia Gandhi
Barely two hours after his Karnal speech, Sonia hit out at Modi at a rally in Meham, saying “empty vessels make the most noise”.
“They are creating such an atmosphere as if nothing has happened in the country since Independence,” she said.
"Has inflation come down? Is the poor man getting food at cheaper rate? Have the unemployed got jobs?" she asked.
Over the next 10 days Modi will be on a campaign blitzkrieg in the two poll-bound states, with over 10 rallies in Haryana and more than 20 in Maharashtra.
With no local face in these two states, the BJP is banking heavily on him for campaigning, especially since the party split with its allies, the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Haryana Janhit Congress in Haryana.