BJP leaders rushed to explain on Monday that no hasty conclusions should be drawn from the fact that, in comparison to the huge crowds which arrived at Sonia Gandhi’s rallies in south Gujarat on Saturday, the attendance at Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s meetings in the same region on Sunday had been thin.
They pointed out that unlike Sonia, who will address only a few gatherings in selected areas, Modi intends to cover all the 182 constituencies adddressing one or two meetings everywhere.
“Modi is not clubbing together constituencies in rural areas for his campaign. He is visiting every constituency,” said Arun Jaitley, BJP in-charge of Gujarat. “If you see Modi addressing a relatively small gathering, it is because the crowd is restricted to people from that constituency alone. Crowds are brought from far away areas to listen to Sonia Gandhi. But we are not moving crowds from any constituency to another.”
“Our strategy is different from that of the Congress,” said Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, BJP vice-president. “We do not waste the energies of our candidates in organising crowds at any particular point because Modi is going to each and every constituency. In tribal areas, our leaders are concentrating more on door-to-door campaigns rather than meetings.
“We are organizing community lunches and dinners in villages. We are going on motorcycles into interior areas,” he said.
Senior RSS leaders who have joined in to campaign for Modi after initial misigiving on either side are moving into the rural areas to enthuse BJP cadres.
“We prefer small meetings to big ones like those of Sonia Gandhi's,” said Naqvi. “It is not easy to sustain the euphoria brought about by the big meetings. Once the big leaders leave, the excitement dies down. That does not help the candidates.”
The BJP’s strategy is to build up the fervour slowly so as not to peak too early.