Narendra Modi leaves after meeting BJP president Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)
Lucknow, Sept. 20: Narendra Modi will start his Uttar Pradesh campaign from Kanpur next month, holding up the city’s decline as a sign of the UPA’s neglect and targeting Union minister Sriprakash Jaiswal over the coal block controversy.
This will be Modi’s first visit to the heartland state, where the BJP won only 10 of 80 seats in 2009, since being named the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
“Kanpur was once an industrial hub of north India but is now in ruins. Our leader (Modi) is expected to highlight this, outline his vision of development and explain how the Congress has failed to do anything to stem the slide,” state unit spokesperson Vijay Bahadur Pathak said, adding that BJP president Rajnath Singh would attend the October 15 rally.
Kanpur seems a careful choice. A section of the BJP had earlier urged Modi to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha election from the city but state leaders now say they would prefer Varanasi.
The BJP is looking to break the domination of Jaiswal, a three-time MP from Kanpur since 1999, with its development theme.
The party hopes Modi’s industry-friendly credentials as Gujarat chief minister will help convince voters that it can revive the fortunes of the city pockmarked with shuttered textile mills and leather units struggling to stay afloat.
Kanpur, with a sizeable presence of minority voters, was a Congress fortress through the eighties till 1989 when the CPM’s Subhasini Ali won. The BJP bagged the seat in 1991, 1996 and 1998 before the Congress’s Jaiswal began his winning streak in 1999.
BJP leaders have been harping on the city’s decline and stressing that nothing had happened despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s promise before the state elections last year that its industrial glory would be restored.
The Kanpur civic body is run by the BJP and Jagatvir Singh Drona, elected thrice as MP, is now the mayor.
Modi’s Kanpur rally will be followed by one in Jhansi on October 25. Once a BJP bastion, Jhansi is now a Congress pocketborough represented by Pradeep Jain, the Union minister of state for rural development.
Bahraich, another Congress-held seat, will be Modi’s next stop on November 8. Over 30 per cent of the voters in the district are from the minority community.