Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking the 2019 parliamentary polls to a presidential pitch. Addressing a mammoth public rally in Meerut, after the filing of nomination papers for the first and second phase, Modi ended his speech by saying every vote cast by pressing the lotus button on the electronic voting machines will directly be credited to his account and make his government return to power.
Modi was essentially telling voters that even if a section of them had reservations, they should ignore that for the larger good and keep in mind Modi’s track record of the past year.
In his hour-long speech, Modi made it known why he chose Meerut to formally launch his campaign for 2019 elections, in a region which witnessed the Muzaffarnagar communal riots ahead of last parliamentary elections, a region which has biggest presence of Jats, a community generally perceived to be aligned with Ajit Singh’s (former Union minister and famed Jat leader Chaudhary Charan Singh) RLD, a region which allegedly saw an exodus of Hindus during Samajwadi Party reign, a region which during Kairana parliamentary seat by-poll heard chants of “Ganna versus Jinnah”.
In a well thought out strategy, Modi spoke of Chaudhary Charan Singh at length, both in the beginning of his speech and when he was about to end his speech. He called him “desh ka sapoot” (worthy son of nation). References to “Chaudhary sahib” were combined with two other issues, which have have been at the core of Jat politics in the area: Ganna (sugarcane) and security of young girls (an issue which was allegedly sparked off Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013). By doing so he was playing at both levels: Issues related to emotions and honour and those associated with livelihood.
In his speech, Modi said he chose Meerut to begin his poll campaign because this was the region from where first war of Independence in 1857 began. Two soldiers recently killed in the line of duty, one in the Sukma Naxal attack and the other in the Pulwama terror attack were from Meerut, he added.
This was Modi’s characteristic rock star speech where he moved on from one issue to another, listing his achievements and targeting Opposition in same vein, rebutting his rivals and critics on every single issue that they raised against him: Proof of surgical strikes, boastful government, Modi versus combined Opposition with catchy phrases such as “damdar chowkidar”… exhorting the crowd to shout “main bhi chowkidar”, “saboot chahiye ya sapoot chahiye”, “surgical strike ka sahas”, and ”Mahamilawati” .
Incidentally, this rally came just 24 hours after Modi's address to the nation where he announced that India had acquired military capability in outer space. The test catapulted India into league of space powers: the USA, Russia and China. “Whether its land, sky or outer space damdar chowkidar has displayed courage conduct surgical strikes,” Modi said.
Without naming leaders such as Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal, Modi said some were making headlines in Pakistan as heroes. He asked: Does India want hero of Hindustan or hero of Pakistan? “Saboot chahiye ya saboot chahiye, mere desh ke sapoot hi saboot hain, jo sabot mang rahen hain who sapoot ko lalkar rahen hain”. By talking about 'sabot versus sapoot', Modi was referring to the return of Wing Commander Abhinandan and how other soldiers repulsed Pakistan’s intrusion into Indian airspace and ceasefire violations along Line of Control.
Modi was trying to impress upon the crowd that this was a tough decision taken by him in the national interest. Modi detailed the risks involved and added if something had gone wrong then he would have been taken apart by his rivals and critics. He took on Rahul for calling his address to the nation “theatrics”.
This was also the first time Modi responded to Rahul’s minimum income assurance of Rs 72,000 per year for five crore poor families. He ridiculed Rahul and Congress as “those who did not make it possible for poor to open a bank account in last 70 years are now talking about making direct payment to their account. These were the people who opposed when I was opening accounts of poor under Jan-dhan scheme. Those who didn’t let poor open bank account, will they make payments in their accounts.”
Congress, according to Modi, had an interest in keeping the poor economically and socially backward for vote bank considerations. Indira Gandhi’s 1971 remove poverty slogan came in that context, he added. Modi's counter to Rahul was simple: Remove Congress at all levels, poverty will be eradicated.
Modi set the tone for what could be expected from him to come in the run-up to Lok Sabha elections and by also travelling to Uttarakhand and Jammu on day one of his campaign.
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Updated Date: Mar 28, 2019 18:58:12 IST