Thousands flock to Modi as campaign builds steam

BAHRAICH Fri Nov 8, 2013 8:51pm IST

Gujarat's chief minister and Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attends a convocation ceremony at Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University (PDPU), a school of petroleum management, at Gandhinagar in Gujarat October 19, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave/Files

Gujarat's chief minister and Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) attends a convocation ceremony at Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University (PDPU), a school of petroleum management, at Gandhinagar in Gujarat October 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Amit Dave/Files

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BAHRAICH (Reuters) - No matter that Narendra Modi's election rally on Friday was held in a field outside a remote town not far from the border with Nepal.

Still they came, on foot, clinging to the back of tractors, crammed into rickety buses.

In the end up to 50,000 people gathered before a stage decorated with the orange colours of Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to hear the 63-year-old harangue the government and encourage them to dream of a better future.

Admiration for Modi bordered on a personality cult in Bahraich, a small town surrounded by fertile fields in Uttar Pradesh, home to 200 million people and a crucial battleground for anyone wanting to control parliament.

"If he becomes prime minister, he'll bring about a sea change in the countryside," said Atul Kumar Singh, a student. "He's an honest politician and I'm 110 percent sure he'll be the next prime minister," the 21-year-old added.

Modi's campaign has focused on fighting corruption, seen by Indians as the source of many of their problems, and replicating the economic success he enjoyed as chief minister of Gujarat, which many voters in Uttar Pradesh openly envy.

That, combined with fatigue at 10 years of Congress rule, economic stagnation and the ruling party's weak response so far to Modi's vigorous campaign, has made him the early favourite to replace Manmohan Singh as the leader of India's 1.2 billion people.

"Things are going so badly," said Ravi Kumar Yadav, 25, a farmer, who until recently supported one of Uttar Pradesh's main regional parties but now backs the BJP.

"You can't get anything done without paying a bribe, and the price for everything has gone through the roof."

Nationally, Modi remains a divisive candidate tarnished by riots in Gujarat 11 years ago, near the beginning of his stewardship, in which more than 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims.

He has vehemently denied he failed to stop the violence, and a Supreme Court inquiry found no evidence to prosecute him.

That has not been enough to convince India's 150 million-200 million Muslim population, and, although some 40 percent of people living in Bahraich are Muslims - well above the national average - their presence at the Modi rally was negligible.

"ENOUGH IS ENOUGH"

After arriving at the venue in a helicopter to cheers, Modi renewed his attack on politicians he said were in it for personal gain, and vowed to make them accountable if he and his party were returned to power.

"They know that if our BJP government is formed in Delhi, those who are responsible for ruining this nation will end up where they deserve to be," he shouted, eliciting loud applause.

"Enough is enough. Now the time has come for them (Congress) to go."

Speaking without notes, he joked, jumped nimbly from national issues to local ones, and promised to do with the economy of Uttar Pradesh what he had done in Gujarat.

He said he would wipe out terrorism, after six people were killed by blasts at a Modi rally in Patna last month, which authorities blamed on the home-grown Indian Mujahideen group that holds him responsible for the 2002 bloodshed.

And he took another swipe at Rahul Gandhi, who is likely to lead Congress' fight against him in the run-up to elections that must be held by May.

A scion of the dynasty that has ruled India for most of its independence from Britain in 1947, Gandhi has so far failed to match Modi's mass appeal, and risks falling further behind as his challenger criss-crosses the country in search of votes.

Modi has cast the political battle as one between a "prince" and a man of the people who worked up through the ranks from humble roots, striking a chord with many Indians.

(Writing by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (5)
hansrajsolo wrote:
Dear Reuters, Please insert a Boiler plate of Modi being a divisve leader and scars of 2002 riots..my only plea is if you touch upon this in every articles then you have to explain what happened in 2002 and how it all started and after that in gujarat not one riot has taken place. Where is your journalistic ethics if you behave like indian paid media . like cnn-ibn, times now etc. Please be neutral and report the news and well researched opinions. I would like you to give us enough evidential proof of how much a divisive leader he is compare to Ragul gandhi aka raul vinci who is asked to report to the Election Commision for Communal speeches. whereas Narendra Modi has never, not once delivered a communal speech..but vested interests groups ISI linked with the likes of congress the Communists and Naxalites like Brinda karat , Pranoy Roy and Aruna Roy and the channels are labelling him a devisive figure..The Indian public are seeing through all these lies.

Nov 08, 2013 10:01pm IST  --  Report as abuse
moderate_Indian wrote:
Dear Reuters, I read the article and I cannot stress enough how divisive this man is and how terrifying the prospects are for India were he to come to power. The kind of fear and horror that his name invokes among a sizable number of the country’s minorities, and also among many moderate Hindus cannot be stressed enough. For the most part, his supporters are abusive and also enjoy considerable online presence. Their threats, oftentimes of violence, towards the minorities and also those who are moderates, are a matter of routine. While one cannot disagree the Congress has had a relatively poor performance record in the recent past, this is not to say that India warrants a fascist such as Modi at the helm. He is a threat to democracy and to the rights and freedoms of many in the world’s largest democracy, and hopefully reuters will take due note of this. Do not be swayed by the reports coming in or the online comments. They are symptomatic of a frightening transition — and all sane, moderate, balanced people must call this man’s bluff.

Nov 08, 2013 12:19am IST  --  Report as abuse
SK_Rao wrote:
When media is being so careful to ensure BJP is prefixed with the term “Hindu Nationalist”, why are they careless enough to omit the prefix “Minority Fundamentalist” to Congress that it clearly deserves?

Nov 08, 2013 3:33am IST  --  Report as abuse
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