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Waiting for Narendra Modi to arrive for his rally in Gorakhpur, Someshwar Pandey could not hide his disappointment sitting in the back row of an enclosure.
The self-appointed Uttar Pradesh unit president of the Narendra Modi Sena, Pandey expected a seat on the dais and was angry with the BJP’s state leadership and local MP Yogi Adityanath.
“Mark my words, people have come to see only Modi. There is no energy in the local leaders.”
Pandey’s personal grudge may have clouded his judgement of Adityanath, the heir to the Gorakhnath Math, who is considered almost electorally invincible in the region, but his larger point seemed to have merit.
In his address, BJP president, Rajnath Singh, urged voters not to think of the local candidate while voting, but to consider that their vote was to make Modi the prime minister.
Even in BJP circles, a popular saying these days is: ‘Modi zaroori, candidate majboori (Modi is a necessity, candidate a compulsion).”
At the rally, as speaker after speaker of the BJP state unit — including veterans such as Kalraj Mishra, Lalji Tandon and Surya Pratap Shahi — held forth, the response was limited.
This was in contrast to the energy when Modi spoke. People seemed enthused by his presence. The focus did not seem as much on the content of his speech.
And this perhaps illustrates the party’s big challenge in the polls. Will national agenda prevail or will local issues dominate?
If issues such as candidate selection, the ability of the candidate to muster up his own support, organisational tension and local caste alignments dominate, the BJP will find it tough to translate rally crowds into votes.
But if the national narrative and the Modi persona overwhelm other factors, the party will have a reason to smile.