Lucknow: Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned for his party on Monday in Lucknow with a huge rally. “Never before have I seen such a massive audience, not even in my campaign for the 2014 general election,” the PM said to a sea of supporters that roared their approval. “When I was shown photos in the morning of the crowd that had gathered already, there were so many people that I asked if I was running late,” he said, declaring that “it’s time for the BJP’s 14-year exile to end” in Uttar Pradesh.
This was the PM’s first public meeting after his televised address on Saturday night which updated the country on the notes ban that he announced abruptly on November 8. The dates for Uttar Pradesh’s election are expected to be announced later this week. “Give us a chance and you will see how things will change,” he said, underscoring the dearth of development in Uttar Pradesh. “After seeing this rally, I don’t think it’s hard to guess who will win the state,” the PM professed.
The Uttar Pradesh result, which will be read as a portent of whether PM Modi will return for a second term in 2019, will also been seen as a test of his popularity after his risky demonetisation drive, which left India desperately short of cash. In his speech on New Year’s Eve, he announced a series of schemes to financially benefit those groups that are seen as hit especially hard by the reform and are a key component of Uttar Pradesh’s population- farmers, small and medium-sized business, and the urban and rural poor.
Earlier today, the Supreme Court ruled that religion cannot be used by politicians to seek votes. Uttar Pradesh is communally sensitive and like Bihar, its politics are embedded in a complex caste calculus. “There may have been a time when castes were important, you all have endured the politics of caste and religion. I appeal to you all to rise above this and vote for progress and development,” said the PM, highlighting the promise of economic growth that powered his record victory in 2014.