Narendra Modi will headline Dussehra day in Uttar Pradesh's capital city Lucknow - already thrumming with the drumbeat of big ticket state elections early summer of 2017. Tuesday will likely witness an assault of Ram - Ravan one-liners from lecterns across the state as cracks appear in Samajwadi Party. BSP supremo Mayawati is calling on Muslims to ignore the BJP and the SP and come into her fold. Mayawati's math is this: the Dalit vote in UP is at least 22% for every seat and BSP has the shortest path via the Muslim vote.
Uttar Pradesh elections will be a four horse race that will test at least two record setters - strategist Prashant Kishor, who has never lost an election, and Rahul Gandhi who has never won one. The Samajwadi Party's problems are no secret - it's all in the family. Akhilesh Yadav is in open confrontation with his paternal uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav - the state's PWD minister.
Seizing her chance, Mayawati is pitching her case to segments of upper caste and urban voters to add to her Dalit base which gave her a 20% vote even in the 2014 election.
Political rivals in Uttar Pradesh chieftains are bracing for a day of high octane stump speeches - "Opportunistic politics" is driving Narendra Modi to Lucknow on Dussehra says UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav as Modi readies to make a grand entry. Home minister Rajnath Singh will travel with the PM to the venue. BSP supremo Mayawati claims BJP has tanked to third position so PM Narendra Modi is coming to Lucknow to shore up the numbers.
Approximate timing of Dussehra political speeches, Oct 11:
RSS chief Nagpur speech: between 8 - 9 am
Narendra Modi at Lucknow: after 6 pm
Rahul Gandhi at Ramlila maidan: after 5 pm
Arvind Kejriwal at Luv Kush Ramlila Maidan: after 3 pm
At a book launch in Delhi, Modi threaded the needle for what he may say in Lucknow, tracing the origins of the non-Congress alternative in India and why politics must not be the preserve of the past if that past is rotten. Reading from Deen Dayal Upadhyay's works, he linked lines from his book reading to how India's army must be strong and ready not because it wants to be an aggressor but because it is essential for a country. He also offered an 'explainer' of the concept of unresolved issues as the new normal in an interdependent world.
Modi is scheduled to be at the Ramlila ground for about an hour - his first public appearance after the surgical strikes against terror targets in Pakistan. Late Monday night, PTI reports that at least 250 terrorists belonging to three Pakistan-based terror groups are active in the Kashmir valley, trying to target security forces to "avenge" the surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army in PoK.
Quoting intelligence inputs, top government sources said most of the 250 terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahideen infiltrated before the surgical strikes on the intervening night of September 28 and 29. The terrorists were given clear instructions by their handlers across the border to target security forces in Kashmir valley to "avenge" the surgical strikes, sources said.
Despite Modi’s message to the contrary, Lucknow’s streets have come alive with posters full of military imagery - armed soldiers, reference to ‘surgical strikes’, Modi with a clenched fist - the works.
Taking aim at Modi’s Lucknow visit on Dussehra, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said "had there been elections in Bihar, he would have slayed Ravana there".
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav backed Rahul Gandhi's controversial 'dalali' remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on India’s surgical strikes saying the Congress leader must have said it after “much thought”
Yadav and SP general secretary Amar Singh, who were daggers drawn in the inner-party battle recently, on Monday made contradictory statements on the army's surgical strikes in PoK, exposing differences in the party leadership, much to the BJP's delight.
But Lucknow is not the only location to watch. Over West in Nagpur, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat would deliver his annual Vijayadashmi speech at Reshimbagh Ground on the same day when Modi take centrestage at the Aishbagh Ramlila in Lucknow. Both are a departure from tradtiion - RSS workers will be seen wearing their new outfits and it’s the first time Prime Minister Modi will be outside Delhi on Vijayadashmi day.
"This year's Vijayadashmi is very special for the country," Modi said to ringing applause in New Delhi that grew louder and settled only after an entire minute.
State elections are coming up in 2017. After the Bihar wallop in 2015, the BJP is girding for a tight contest in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state. BJP won 71 seats of 80 in 2014 during the Lok Sabha elections and a low water mark of 47 seats of 403 in the 2012 assembly election.