After its split with long-time ally Shiv Sena and facing a multi-cornered contest for most seats, the BJP in Maharashtra is looking to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to work his magic with voters before the October 15 election.
The party, which has not projected any state leader for chief minister, plans to organise two dozen rallies by Modi at carefully chosen locations across the state, beginning Saturday.
Before the “Sinh Garjana “ at the city’s Mahalaxmi Race Course in the evening, the PM will address two rallies in central Maharashtra, at Beed and Aurangabad. On Sunday, he will visit Kolhapur in western Maharashtra, Gondia in eastern Vidarbha, and Nashik in north Maharashtra. Modi is expected to address at least 18 more rallies, including two in the city, before campaigning ends on October 13.
Mumbai is crucial for the BJP after it broke with the Sena, which now accuses it of betraying the sons of the soil. The BJP has several non-Marathi candidates in the city; it claims to have fielded Marathi candidates in proportion to the community’s share of the electorate.
The Sena has questioned the BJP’s bid to hijack Chhatrapati Shivaji. The BJP’s main slogan reads ‘Chhatrapatincha Ashirvaad, Chala Deu Modina Saath’ (seek Chhatrapati’s blessings and support Modi). The MNS has joined the Sena in slamming the BJP over this issue.
The BJP national president Amit Shah, the Sena’s main target, has deputed leaders from all ethnic communities to win voters over.
The party’s headquarters is flooded with requests for Modi rallies. To begin with, the PM will visit central Maharashtra, also known as Marathwada, where the BJP won only two seats in the 2009 assembly polls. Winning more in this region is crucial for the BJP’s hopes for power.
Modi will also travel to Kolhapur, in the state’s sugar belt, to target the NCP, which holds sway there, but faces a threat from the BJP’s ally, the Raju Shetti-led Swambhimani Shetkari Paksha. This will also help the BJP in neighbouring Sangli where it has three MLAs and a Lok Sabha member who ended the Congress’ undefeated run in May this year.
Eastern Vidarbha’s Gondia is the pocketborough of the senior NCP leader Praful Patel who, despite losing his Lok Sabha seat to the BJP, plans to bounce back. Nashik in north Maharashtra is the MNS’ stronghold, which the BJP will try to capture.