Breaking the unsaid rule of keeping off a political rival’s turf, Narendra Modi will hold a rally in Rahul Gandhi’s constituency, Amethi, on Monday.
The decision was taken after the BJP’s UP in-charge Amit Shah spent all of Friday in the Gandhi family bastion — cancelling his rallies in Robertsganj and Ghazipur and deciding instead to meet with top party workers there to discuss plans on supporting party candidate Smriti Irani.
“Earlier, we used to fight all 80 Lok Sabha seats (in UP). This time, we are fighting Amethi to win,” Shah told HT.
HT was first to report on April 26 that the BJP was considering a rally for its PM candidate in Amethi after receiving requests from party leaders in UP. The report also said the Congress could reciprocate if Modi went through with the plan. “We are keeping a close watch. If he goes to Amethi, we will respond appropriately,” a Congress leader had told this paper then.
In line with that response, Congress strategists said Friday the party would respond to Modi’s move in an “appropriate manner”. Sources indicated the party leadership would take a call on the campaign strategy in Varanasi — where Modi is contesting — in a day or two. With Varanasi going to polls on May 12 and May 10 being the last day for campaigning, a senior Congress functionary said, “We have time till May 10.”
The Modi rally is scheduled for 4pm on Monday, May 5 — the last day for campaigning in Amethi before polling on May 7 — in place of his scheduled rally in Kaushambi, BJP sources said. Senior party colleagues such as LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are also expected to campaign for Irani. Kicking off the show, BJP leader Kalyan Singh will hold a rally in Amethi on Saturday.
All BJP cadre have been sounded out and told to ensure people turn out in large numbers. Work for the rally has begun with 38 full-time volunteers on the ground and teams from Gujarat being brought in. BJP state unit chief Laxmikant Vajpayee was to move to Amethi on Friday night itself, the sources said.
The BJP assessment is that AAP candidate Kumar Vishwa will cut into the Congess vote, leaving the field open for the saffron party.
(With inputs from HT Correspondent, Delhi)