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Target: Third front

Narendra Modi with BJP president Rajnath Singh at a rally in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Feb. 11: Narendra Modi today asked BJP MPs to aggressively attack the envisaged “third front” and UPA allies, indicating that he recognised that in quite a few states regional parties and not the Congress could throw up unexpected challenges.

Modi was addressing Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha MPs this evening in what would possibly be his last collective interaction with them before the general election.

“Modiji said doubtless the Congress was in a very bad shape. But that should not delude us about the existence of the other parties. Our job should be to club all such parties with the Congress and purvey a message that a vote for a regional party amounts to a vote for the Congress,” said an MP from a northern state.

At a rally in Bhubaneswar today, Modi came down hard on the Biju Janata Dal, an erstwhile ally which the BJP had at one point sought out again until BJD chief Naveen Patnaik cast his lot with the still inchoate non-BJP, non-Congress “front”.

Modi reportedly emphasised the need to “optimally” use the social media, especially the mobile phone, prompting a Bihar MP to later remark: “He spoke of the wonders such gizmos could do. The reality is a majority of Biharis use cellphones to speak and listen. The concept of text messaging is alien to them.”

However, the BJP’s Prime Minister candidate also stressed the use of “offline” campaigns in the form of “padyatras”, religiously attending social events and, “most importantly”, identifying local issues and holding sit-ins. Modi did say: “Text messages cannot replace direct connect.”

He singled out the “chat over tea” programme the BJP embarks on at a thousand places from Wednesday as an example of “direct connect”. However, a Gujarat MP wondered what good a chit-chat over tea among the BJP’s faithful would do to bring more people into the party fold.