Modi's BJP party kicks into election mode in India with massive rally

One year ahead of the next general elections, India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got into campaign mode by s...

Posted: Apr 6, 2018 2:33 PM
Updated: Apr 6, 2018 2:33 PM

One year ahead of the next general elections, India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got into campaign mode by staging a 300,000-strong rally in Mumbai.

The massive rally in the country's financial capital on Friday, was a move seen as a show of strength ahead of expected general elections, which are due by May 2019.

The rally was fronted by the BJP's powerful president, Amit Shah, a close friend of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who used the platform to hammer Opposition party chief Rahul Gandhi, taunting him Gandhi with the nickname, "Rahul Baba," which can mean "baby" in Hindi.

Shah also used the opportunity to praiseModi's four years of governance, rattling off the names of various government programs.

"We came into government, not for the pleasure of being in power, but to use it as the medium of power to work for the welfare of the poor," he told the gathering, many of whom were ferried to the city on the thousands of buses and 28 trains the BJP had booked to transport its supporters.

Modi, who was due to link up with the rally later via video link, in a tweet Friday called the BJP "the party of a New India".

"We are privileged to receive the blessings of people of all age groups, across all sections of society."

BJP swept to power in 2014 with promises to boost income levels, but two disruptive policy changes slightly dented the party and the prime minister's popularity.

The first was when Modi stunned the country in November 2016 by abruptly banning its two largest currency notes, leading to a sharp slump in many sectors of India's cash economy.

The second was a landmark overhaul of the tax system last July, which disrupted businesses as many companies struggled to adapt to the new regime.

However, Modi is expected to weather these storms. In a survey published in November -- but conducted before he overhauled the tax system -- nearly nine out of 10 Indians said they were happy with the prime minister, while eight in 10 were happy with the state of the economy.

Bellwether state elections loom

This year, ahead of 2019's national elections, polls will take place in the state of Karnataka in the south; Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura in the northeast; Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in the country's center; and Rajasthan -- a state that has had alternating governments since 1990 and is currently ruled by the BJP -- in the west.

State elections are often seen as key political tests for the ruling party ahead national elections and are crucial at national level because each state nominates a proportional number of representatives to India's upper house of parliament.

While the BJP has a clear majority in the lower house, it is underrepresented in the upper house, which has stymied some of its reform proposals.

In December the BJP retained power in Modi's home state of Gujarat, but only by a whisker.

It was the party's worst performance at a state election in Gujarat in more than two decades, with analysts pointing to widespread dissatisfaction over Modi's recent economic policies as a primary reason for the drop in poll numbers.

Accusations of Hindu nationalism

Modi's tenure has also prompted criticism for fostering Hindu nationalism. In 2016, a number of Indian writers returned their literary awards in protest over what they called a growing climate of intolerance and threats to free speech under his Hindu nationalist government.

Their action came after the murder of a Muslim man suspected of eating beef in Hindu-majority India. Some BJP officials suggested that Muslims should not eat beef or otherwise offend the religious sensibilities of Hindus, who consider cows to be sacred.

However, there are those that say this is exactly why Modi is so popular.

"Modi is still one of the most popular leaders in the country precisely because people see him as a Hindu hriday samrat -- ruler of the Hindu heart," said Mohammad Ali, a reporter with The Hindu, a national newspaper. "Irrespective of how the government is doing, he is still one of the most popular leaders."

The previous year, the head of the country's central bank made an appeal for tolerance, warning the economy will never reach its potential if debate is stifled.

Earlier this week, India's Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal against one of its rulings that sparked deadly protests by lower-caste Indians.

The court's judgment led to fierce opposition from critics who said it would weaken protections for the country's Dalit and other low-caste communities.

"The protests will likely dent the BJP's image with Dalit voters, as opposition parties will look to exploit the events and paint Modi as anti-minority," said Shailesh Kumar, an analyst at the Eurasia Group think tank.

Terre Haute
Overcast
74° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 74°
Robinson
Scattered Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 73°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 75°
Rockville
Overcast
71° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 71°
Casey
Overcast
72° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 72°
Brazil
Overcast
74° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 74°
Marshall
Overcast
74° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 74°
Slightly cooler.
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 151572

Reported Deaths: 7329
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook940054676
Lake10175427
DuPage9502483
Kane7971281
Will7120322
Winnebago3143101
McHenry2208100
St. Clair2128144
Kankakee134465
Unassigned1170210
Rock Island110730
Madison109570
Kendall102423
Champaign101017
Boone62921
Peoria60929
DeKalb60220
Sangamon49333
Jackson34519
McLean30115
Randolph2927
Ogle2834
Stephenson2826
Clinton24417
Macon24222
LaSalle23917
Whiteside20315
Union19619
Coles18817
Grundy1875
Iroquois1705
Tazewell1648
Knox1520
Monroe14713
Warren1470
Adams1421
Williamson1394
Cass1367
Morgan1323
Jefferson11317
Lee1042
Henry1031
McDonough10315
Vermilion852
Pulaski790
Marion770
Montgomery641
Macoupin623
Perry601
Douglas550
Livingston542
Jo Daviess491
Christian484
Jasper477
Ford421
Woodford412
Franklin400
Jersey381
Bureau312
Menard280
Mercer280
Washington250
Cumberland240
Fayette233
Johnson230
Mason230
Wabash230
Alexander220
Carroll212
Clark210
Piatt210
Effingham201
Shelby201
Bond191
Hancock191
Moultrie190
Crawford180
Logan180
De Witt160
Edgar160
Fulton160
Massac150
Wayne151
Schuyler130
Marshall120
Saline110
Brown100
Greene80
Henderson80
Lawrence80
Richland80
White80
Hamilton70
Stark60
Pike50
Gallatin40
Clay20
Edwards20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Out of IL11
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott10

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 49575

Reported Deaths: 2739
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11812690
Lake5337247
Elkhart343257
Allen2867133
St. Joseph202569
Cass16439
Hamilton1629101
Hendricks1439100
Johnson1306118
Porter78038
Tippecanoe7439
Clark67144
Madison66864
Vanderburgh6296
LaPorte59727
Bartholomew59245
Howard58258
Kosciusko5654
Marshall5217
Noble49128
LaGrange4829
Jackson4773
Delaware46052
Boone45944
Hancock45736
Shelby43425
Floyd39144
Morgan32831
Monroe31528
Grant30226
Montgomery29720
Henry29316
Dubois2906
Clinton2882
White26810
Decatur25532
Lawrence25125
Dearborn24723
Vigo2408
Warrick23229
Harrison21722
Greene19132
Miami1892
Jennings17912
Putnam1708
DeKalb1634
Scott1628
Daviess15017
Wayne1496
Perry1409
Orange13623
Steuben1332
Franklin1278
Jasper1252
Ripley1247
Wabash1152
Carroll1122
Fayette1037
Gibson1032
Newton9910
Whitley995
Starke963
Huntington822
Randolph804
Wells791
Jefferson782
Fulton731
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox650
Clay644
Rush603
Owen511
Adams491
Posey490
Benton480
Spencer461
Sullivan451
Brown421
Blackford392
Fountain332
Crawford320
Tipton311
Switzerland280
Parke240
Martin220
Ohio210
Vermillion170
Warren151
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193