BJP banks on 'Mann Ki Baat' for campaign in Gujarat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: PTI
Led by party chief Amit Shah and several Cabinet ministers, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers across poll-bound Gujarat on Sunday made the most of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat broadcast to reach out to voters.

In his broadcast, the PM spoke at length about “jawan (soldier) and kisan (farmer)”. He also spoke about the Constitution and terrorism, more specifically how the world took too long to wake up to India’s dire warnings about the menace that terrorism posed to humanity. Sunday was the anniversary of India having adopted its Constitution on November 26, 1949, and also the anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks of 2008.

Taking a cue from the PM’s speech, BJP leaders attacked the Congress for allegedly being soft on terrorism and terrorists. The Congress social media team responded by pointing out it was a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government who had escorted 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed to Kandahar. 

Several BJP chief ministers and Union ministers are in Gujarat for election campaigning on Sunday and Monday. The PM is to start his public rallies from Monday.

BJP workers either listened to the broadcast on radio, or at some places put up screens to watch its televised version on state broadcaster Doordarshan. The BJP grabbed the opportunity of turning the event into a campaign, targeting a Congress youth team meme that ridiculed the PM’s antecedents of being a tea seller. It had asked its workers to listen to the broadcast over tea —Mann Ki Baat chai ke saath — in all of the 50,000 polling booths in the state.

Apart from terrorism and 26/11, the PM spoke about the ‘success’ of his government’s soil health card project. Modi called upon farmers to halve the use of urea by 2022, the 75th anniversary of Independence, for better soil health management. While not broaching the subject of agrarian distress and farmer suicides, the PM said farmers can increase their yields and earnings, and transform their lives by reducing the use of urea.

India uses nearly 24 million tonnes of urea annually. It is the most widely consumed fertiliser in the country. 

However, indiscriminate usage of urea has turned vast tracts of land in some northern states, like Punjab, infertile. Urea is also the cheapest fertiliser available in the country as it is highly subsidised.

Under its soil programme, the Modi government had planned to distribute soil health cards to all 140 million farmer families by March 2017. Till date, almost 100 million cards have been distributed in the first phase, while work on the second phase has started. The soil nutrition mapping card is valid for three years.

With 2017 coming to a close, the PM bemoaned how it would lead to a review of all the “negative” events that had taken place this past year. He appealed to people to post “positive” stories to welcome 2018 with happy memories. The current year was marred by economic slowdown, havoc caused be demonetisation and roll-out of the goods and services tax (GST), but the PM asked people to post five positive stories and send these to him.

He praised the contribution of the armed forces, asked people to mark the Armed Forces Flag Day on December 7 and the Navy Day on December 4. He said Maratha ruler Shivaji had a strong navy as did the Chola Empire. The PM said the nation would remember the contribution of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on the occasion of the great leader’s death anniversary on December 15. This will be the last Mann Ki Baat broadcast of the PM before the Gujarat Assembly polls on December 9 and 14.

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