PM's big South India push: Roadshows, rallies

Chennai: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday wrapped up his whirlwind tour of South India by holding a roadshow in Kerala and a public rally in Tamil Nadu, marking the continuation of the BJP‘s southern outreach, as he made a strong election pitch for the party, a month ahead of Lok Sabha polls. Over the last five days, Modi visited all of south, held roadshows, made an aggressive bid for his party, and took on the rivals with full gusto, especially the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu, and the BRS in Telangana that was in power for 10 years. He also stepped up his attack on the opposition bloc India over Congress leader Rahul Gandhi‘s ‘Shakti’ remark.

Not just through the week, but PM Modi had made repeated stopovers in multiple southern destinations in the past few months, crisscrossing the region, in a bid to get a firmer foothold for the saffron party. He combined official engagements with visits to places of Hindu religious significance.

But for Karnataka, the region has eluded the BJP of many electoral gains. Kerala and Tamil Nadu even bucked the national trend in 2014 and 2019, cold-shouldering an otherwise resurgent and powerful BJP that swept across the country in the polls.

Corruption, dynasty politics, and graft were the focus of his addresses while attacking the Congress and other INDIA bloc constituents, even as he made Gandhi’s ‘Shakti’ remark his key talking point for two days. Gandhi’s comments also drew a sharp retort from the Prime Minister during his public rallies.

Roadshows in non-metro cities like Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and Palakkad in Kerala amplified the BJP’s intentions–woo more voters while strongly pitching the BJP as the sole alternative to the existing majors and usher in growth-oriented development.

In Kerala, the Prime Minister assertively declared that “lotus is going to bloom” in the southern state, dominated by the Congress and Left, while in Tamil Nadu, he repeatedly billed the DMK as an enemy of the state’s future and anti-woman and steeped in corruption.

He also mentioned late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK, saying her treatment at the hands of the DMK was proof of their attitude towards women and claimed that this contributed to the rising crimes against women in the state.

The growing support for BJP in Tamil Nadu is making the DMK lose sleep, he said in Salem.

Although AIADMK snapped ties with the BJP last year and both are heading respective blocs, Modi seemed to have spared the main opposition party in Tamil Nadu and did not criticise it.

His attack on Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his ‘Shakti’ remarks at a rally in Mumbai, was aimed at wooing the women voters more, even as he said the battle was between those wanting to destroy ‘Shakti,’ (women) and those “worshipping” it.

“I am a Shakti upasak,” like national poet Subramania Bharathy, he said at a rally in Tamil Nadu’s western town of Salem.

Asserting that for him every mother and daughter was a form of ‘Shakti’, Modi said the upcoming polls will be a fight between those who want to destroy ‘Shakti’ and those who worship them.

Amidst all this high-decibel electioneering, the BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit seemed to have trumped the AIADMK when it sealed a seat-sharing pact with the Dr S Ramadoss-led Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK). The pact was signed on Tuesday morning, hours ahead of Modi’s Salem event.

Political circles were abuzz that AIADMK had finalised an alliance with the PMK, which was part of the NDA in the 2014 and 2019 elections. The pact prompted Modi to declare that the NDA has found new energy to work, as he hailed the seniority and experience of Ramadoss.

PMK, a Vanniyar-community-backed party, has significant clout in some of the northern districts of the state.

PM is likely to make more visits to the region, as Assembly polls are also slated in Andhra Pradesh, where his party is in alliance with former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP and Janasena. The combine is keen to unseat the incumbent YSRCP government under YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.

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