New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed 142 rallies during his marathon election campaign, devoting 40 per cent of these in the politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha which have a combined seat strength of 143 Lok Sabha seats.
During the high-pitch campaign that began from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh and concluded in Khargone in Madhya Pradesh, Modi also held four roadshows and finally appeared at a press conference where he did not answer any questions, attracting a lot of criticism.
The Prime Minister addressed the highest number of 29 rallies in UP, followed by 17 in Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal and 8 in BJD-ruled Odisha.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had made a sweep in Uttar Pradesh, winning 71 out of 80 seats.
However, in West Bengal, it had bagged only 2 out of 42 seats and in Odisha, only one out of 21 seats.
In the current elections, the Prime Minister devoted ample time in campaigning in UP amid a sense in the BJP that it would not be easy for the party to repeat the performance of 2014 because of the alliance formed by arch rivals Samajwadi Party and BSP, along with RLD.
His greater thrust on personal campaign in West Bengal and Odisha is because of the intent of the BJP to improve its performance in these two states.
Although the BJP and the Prime Minister claim that West Bengal will help the party crossing 300-mark, a top BJP leader, on condition of anonymity, told IANS that the last ditch aggressive effort by the saffron party in West Bengal was to reach the majority mark.
“The party was hopeful of winning good number of seats (at least 60) in UP but it is not going to happen. Realising this, the party leadership went aggressive in West Bengal as there was a possibility of polarization against Mamata Banerjee’s Muslim appeasement policy,” the BJP leader said.
The BJP has been making determined efforts to make inroads in West Bengal and Odisha since the last two years with the help of RSS deputing leaders like Shiv Prakash, Saudan Singh and Arvind Menon.
After the Assembly results in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan came as a major shock for the BJP, the party deputed more foot soldiers of RSS in these two states, a BJP leader privy to the development told IANS.
“The target set in these two states is at least 30,” he said, adding that the Prime Minister’s rallies were planned accordingly in these states as he could himself asses the ground situation.
Besides, these three states, Modi gave much importance to states like Bihar, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat, where he held 50 rallies altogether. These six states comprise 196 Lok Sabha seats, out of which the BJP won 150 on its own and 167 with allies 167 in the 2014 polls.
In 2014, the BJP made a clean sweep in Gujarat and Rajasthan, winning all the 26 and 25 Lok Sabha seats, respectively, and bagging 27 out of total 29 seats in Madhya Pradesh. In Karnataka, the BJP won 17 out of 28 seats.
The party contested with allies LJP (6) and RLSP (3) in Bihar and with Shiv Sena (18) in Maharashtra. Former Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha has now joined hands with mahagathbandhan in Bihar while Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal-United is back in NDA fold.
Sensing how crucial these states could be for the BJP, the Prime Minister devoted over 35 per cent time of his campaign. As allies like JD-U, LJP and Shiv Sena were there, the BJP used their leaders too to woo public support.
The Prime Minister addressed 8 rallies in North East states, four in Jharkhand, three each in Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Chhattisgarh, two each in Telangana, Uttarakhand, Himachal, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala. He addressed one rallies each in Goa and Delhi.