Manbela, Gorakhpur: If you’re afraid of crowded places, you should avoid Modi rallies. I’ve covered Modi’s Delhi and U.P rallies. The crowd has consistently been above 3-4 Lakhs. I’m sure congress will be willing to pay a fortune to get such an audience for Rahul’s rally. The overwhelming public participation in a state where BJP was lagging at the fourth place is a testimony enough of a strong Modi wave. Till six months back Mulayam, Mayawati and a host of other UP leaders were dismissing Modi citing the complexities of UP electorate. Their arrogance has given way to panic as ground reports indicate a surge in BJP vote share.
In contrast to other rallies, Modi’s rallies have a sense of festivity and curiosity inherent. Today’s rally in Gorakhpur was talk of the town for over a week. Newspapers were carrying stories on preparations while the town took on the saffron shade with banners and posters. I landed in a place called Deoria which is about 50 KMs from Gorakhpur and drove towards rally ground along with a Journalist friend of mine. From poor laborers on railway station to people at tea stalls, everyone seemed aware and talking about Narendra Modi.
Gorakhpur has always been a BJP stronghold, however today’s rally along with Varanasi and Bahraich rallies will give a massive fillip to BJP’s prospects in purvanchal. Modi’s oratory includes a detailed homework on the local issues. Modi talked of farmers plight. Lack of electricity and fertilizers are perennial in the eastern belt. He talked of the closed HFC (Hindustan Fertilizer Corporation) plant which received a lot of applause from people. He touched upon plight of sugarcane farmers and since this belt hosts a lot of sugar mills, this point was well received by people. A cursory look around and i noticed even the most illiterate looking man was listening to Modi. Modi had connected to his audience.
Modi talked of migration and jobs, issues which touch a raw nerve here. Almost every family has people working outside the state. Unemployment is rampant and young don’t seem to have a choice. Infact people are so irritated with Akhilesh government’s free laptop scheme that majority are trying to sell it in open market. A group of students i met said, quality of education is poor in UP due to which they end up spending a fortune on coaching post college. A lot of them spent money to learn how to use the laptops they received. They said it would have been better had the same amount been spent in imparting computer skills after which they could have got some job. An elderly nearby named Govind Yadav said his both sons have got free laptops and all they do is watch movies. Getting two buffalos instead would helped their family earn some money.
Modi’s talk of skill development and jobs is successfully appealing to all. I came across Muslims, Yadavs and backward castes who all seem to be supporting Modi in the hope that the area will develop and jobs will be available locally. Modi also seem to be benefiting from his earlier speeches. His call to Yadav’s in Patna rally seems to be working. To a lesser extent Muslims also seem intrigued by his call in Patna and Varanasi rallies. Muslims were asked about 2002 riots by a bunch of Journalists to which their answer was either they can stick to 2002 and continue dying in poverty or give Modi a chance. One unique thing i continue to notice about Modi’s rallies is participation by ex-armed forces personnel or their family. “Modi’s strong image and sympathetic approach towards soldiers is why me and my unit are rooting for him” said Rajeev a soldier in Army. He was on leave and came from Bhadohi to attend this rally.
BJP was in a hopeless state just a year back. Modi single handedly seems to have turned the party around with massive gain in vote share. In my travels across the state, i noticed almost every party losing voteshare to BJP. Modi’s appeal is across all castes and his OBC, poor chaiwallah image is working to his advantage. If i were to risk a guess i’d say a 40+ tally from UP for BJP is entirely possible.