Garibi and Jativaad: Two core points in Modi’s Patna rally

Modi tried to unite Hindu and Muslims by poverty factor, cut into Lalu’s vote base by remembering Yadavs.

Bhartiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi faced a tough task in Patna on Sunday. He had to address a rally which was standing in a danger zone. Five bombs had exploded killing five and injuring 83 at the venue with one live IED found just below the dais.

His speech, which has a trend of Congress-bashing and picking the failures of current government, also features minority appeasing words. Of late, he had been trying to woo Muslims in particular given the fact that the vote chunk will be important if BJP has to emerge as the single largest party in the 2014 elections.

His Delhi rally was a proof of BJP’s desperation to gain minority votes. He has shifted his stance from core hindutva to development (remember his Toilet over Temple remark?). Modi has been trying to change his image of a communal politician to a leader who believes in social inclusion.

On Sunday too, apart from excessive Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar bashing, his speech was nothing different – the same ranting about UPA’s bad policies and the same self-praising lines. But two new points added a new angle to his story. These were garibi (poverty) and jativaad (casteism).

It was former prime minister and Congress’ scion Rahul Gandhi grandmother, Indira Gandhi, who had given the famous slogan “garibi hatao” (remove poverty). Rahul, in his subsequent rallies, has been harping on this slogan by mentioning his UPA government’s specially devised policies which may or may not eradicate poverty but may gain Congress votes.

This time, Modi did an Indira number when he mentioned about garibi in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan. Interestingly, he mixed and matched poverty with both Hindu and Muslim communities to gain the stamp of a secular leader.

“Who do Muslims want to fight? Do you want to fight Hindus or poverty? Both Hindus and Muslims will fight poverty together and make a beautiful nation. Our government will have only one religion: India first, nation first, Bharat sabse aage,” he said in order to woo Muslims and play the poverty plank alongside. This was a first by him for Hindu-Muslim unity too.

He targeted the state government’s policies on Haj. He compared that with his state Gujarat in order to show that Muslims were better off and well cared under his charge. “Muslims in Bihar are so impoverished that they cannot even afford to accept the benefits of the subsidies for Haj pilgrimage. The state has a quota of 7,000 people every year. But the government gets only 6,000 applications. In contrast, the Gujarat government, which has a quota of around 4,300, got 40,000 applications last year,” Modi said.

Although Modi has always kept casteism at bay from his speeches, this time he forgot this rule of his. Given the fact that RJD chief Lalu Yadav’s conviction has weakened his party, Modi tried to woo Yadavs too in his rally. This also rides on the fact that Muslims and Yadavs have been the biggest vote bank for Lalu in Bihar. Appeasing Muslims without appeasing Yadavs in the state would have served no purpose for Modi and BJP.

Becoming a bit personal in his speech, Modi brought home the point of personal relations in politics. He remembered that he had called Lalu when the leader faced an accident and was admitted in a hospital where he received stitches on the deep wound inflicted by shattering of his car’s windshield. Modi mentioned that despite Lalu being a hard core opposser of Modi, Lalu told about Modi’s call while briefing media after the incident.

He indicated that he had the best interest of Yadavs at heart. “I come with the blessings of Dwarka peeth. I will ensure that every yaduvanshi prospers in the state,” he said.

In all, the Patna rally remained about wooing voters – poor, Muslims ad Yadavs – who now have a hard time deciding about whom to choose as their leader. How much his words will be able to consolidate in votes will be an interesting thing to see.

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