Merrut

New Delhi: On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is launching his re-election campaign from Uttar Pradesh, the State that has 80 of the Lok Sabha’s 543 elected MPs. Along with ally Apna Dal, the NDA had won 73 seats from the State in 2014, with the BJP getting 71 of the constituencies. Uttar Pradesh helped India form its first majority government in three decades.

Modi will keep campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, returning to the State again and again until 19 May, the last phase of polling.

The PM will have addressed 150 odd rallies by the time the Lok Sabha election finishes.

Modi’s first rally is slated to be held in the Daurala village of Meerut district under the Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha constituency. The seat is among those for which the people will elect their representatives on 11 April, the first Lok Sabha election day of 2019.

The open field right next to a toll gate is getting cleared for the rally. The event will be attended by the BJP candidates for Muzaffarnagar and seven nearby Lok Sabha constituencies — Saharanpur, Meerut, Kairana, Bijnor, Baghpat, Bulandshahr and Ghaziabad. The MLAs and other leaders of the region from the party will be present too.

The BJP had won Muzaffarnagar in 2014, for the first time since 1998. It was barely a year after the town and adjoining areas witnessed violent communal riots incited by Muslim legislators of the SP, BSP and Congress at a Friday prayer and Hindu retaliation sought by BJP leaders at a Jat mahapanchayat.

While none of the Muslim politicians that had provoked mobs has been held accountable for his action, several Jat youth are still languishing in jails or facing trials for rioting. This is believed to be a reason for the BJP’s defeat in the Kairana by-election after registering a resounding victory in Muzaffarnagar in 2014. More than 60 people were killed in the riots while thousands were displaced.

Now six other seats of the region are with the BJP. Kairana has a Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) MP. The by-poll here was necessitated by the death of BJP’s Hukum Singh.

This being a predominantly agricultural belt, Modi’s address is likely to centre around the scheme of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Samman Nidhi, which provides for a direct benefit transfer of Rs 6,000 to all small land-holders every year besides the prime minister’s pet projects like the soil health card, Kisan Bima Yojana, Jan Dhan accounts for the poor, neem-coated urea, etc.

“We have been told that there would be a crowd of 5 lakh people and that this would be a mix of farmers, women, minorities, labourers etc,” a state BJP leader told journalists.

“The majority of MLAs and booth-level workers will also be present. The preparations are in full swing,” the leader added.

Modi represents in Parliament Varanasi of eastern Uttar Pradesh. He had won from Vadodara as well, a seat he subsequently relinquished. His being an MP from Uttar Pradesh’s eastern part is believed by the BJP to be a motivator for the cadre in Purvanchal as well as Bihar.