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Modi set for flurry of rallies

Narendra Modi

New Delhi, Oct. 24: Narendra Modi has decided to ramp up his presence in Bihar.

The Prime Minister's campaign schedule has been tweaked and, instead of the "11" rallies he was to address earlier, Modi will now be seen in "16 to 20" public meetings in the constituencies that vote in the remaining three legs of the five-phase election.

So far, 14 have been lined up. "The number will increase," a source said.

"Everyone wants him, there's so much pressure to have five or six meetings per day, but that's not logistically possible," BJP general secretary Anil Jain, who is camping in Patna to plan Modi's programmes, said.

Modi will kick-start the next leg of his Bihar blitzkrieg tomorrow, addressing four rallies at Madhauda, Hajipur, Nalanda and Patna.

The places, sources said, had been "strategically" chosen: Madhauda comes under the Chhapra Lok Sabha constituency, where Lalu Prasad's spouse and former chief minister Rabri Devi lost to the BJP's Rajiv Pratap Rudy in the parliamentary polls.

Also, Lalu Prasad had promised a locomotive factory in this area when the RJD boss was railway minister, while ally Nitish Kumar had spoken of reviving a sick sugar mill. Neither was implemented.

Hajipur is BJP ally Ram Vilas Paswan's traditional turf, while Nalanda is chief minister Nitish Kumar's terrain. In Patna, Modi will not speak in the city's Gandhi Maidan but in rural Sona in Naubatpur block.

Sources said while the BJP was "reasonably sure" of retaining its urban votes, it feared that the Yadav-majority belts in the rural swathe around Patna might root wholesale for Lalu Prasad.

Modi will be in Siwan and Buxar on October 26; at Bettiah, Motihari and Sitamarhi on October 27; and in Madhepura and Madhubani on November 1. He will wind up his campaign on November 2 with three meetings at Purnea, Darbhanga and Forbesganj.

Sources said Modi's schedule had been tailored keeping in mind the India-Africa Forum Summit. While the summit starts tomorrow in Delhi, the Prime Minister's first appearance on the stage will be to inaugurate the plenary on October 29. On October 28 and 30, he will have bilateral meetings.

Realising that it would have to make good the perceived "losses" suffered in the first two rounds of polling, the BJP has pulled out all stops to establish a lead over the "Grand Alliance" in the remaining ones.

"It is a given that the Muslims and the Yadavs will not vote for the BJP. The idea is to consolidate the other voting blocks on the strength of Modiji's persona, our development model and perhaps polarisation. But it's not religious polarisation. We hope to gain from the growing fears about Lalu Prasad's return," a BJP source said.

Apart from pinning its expectations of "gains" from the caste calculus it has in mind, the BJP claimed that a video, purportedly showing Nitish's encounter with a "tantrik", might inflict some "damage" to the alliance because the "tantrik" had also denounced Lalu Prasad at the alleged meeting.

Sources in the rival camp dismissed the BJP's hopes as "day dreams". "Such cheap gimmicks don't work in Bihar," a source in the Janata Dal (United) said.

The video was released by Union minister and Bihar MP Giriraj Singh, who is already being criticised internally for his out-of-step pronouncements and an "overemphasis" on the upper caste Bhumihars.


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