Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a massive roadshow in Kerala’s Kochi last evening, where he landed for a two-day visit. Visuals showed the Prime Minster — surrounded by security personnel — walking the road lined with cheering supporters in what was clearly a departure from his usual practice of riding an open-top vehicle.
Dressed in traditional Kerala attire, PM Modi was seen waving to people on both sides of the 2-km route from the INS Garuda naval air station to the venue of a youth conclave. PM Modi landed at the naval air station after 5 pm yesterday.
The entire area was under a tight security net, with thousands of police personnel deployed to ensure the Prime Minister’s safety. After walking for over 15 minutes, he was led to a following SUV by his security personnel.
Later, addressing “Yuvam 2023” PM Modi spoke of the big infrastructure changes in Kerala brought about by the Central government.
“While the previous governments indulged in corruption in every sector, the BJP government is giving opportunities to the youth in every sector. Through vocal for local, we are encouraging local products, we have given opportunities to the youth in space and defence. We have increased manufacturing and exports in the country,” he said.
“From “Fragile 5”, India has now become the “Fastest growing economy”… You all did this. Which is why I trust the youth of this country with this responsibility,” he added. The BJP expects the youth programme to be a game changer in Kerala politics.
The Prime Minister’s move to walk during the roadshow in Kerala — just days after a suicide bomber threat letter — is seen as a show of confidence in a state where his party is hoping to make huge inroads ahead of next year’s general election.
Over the last few months, the BJP has been aggressively focused on Kerala, not only announcing multiple infrastructure projects but also courting the state’s Christian and Muslim communities, which have influence over a chunk of seats.
Later in the evening, the Prime Minister met a group of eight bishops from the state’s various Christian sects. It would be his second interaction with the community in three weeks.
The meeting comes on the heels of the BJP’s outreach programme “Sneha Yatra”, as part of which party leaders visited Christian and Muslim homes during Easter and Eid.
Its outreach campaign recently received a shot in the arm when a senior Bishop — Thalassery Archbishop Mar Joseph Pamplany — of the influential Syro-Malabar Catholic Church said if the Centre promised to increase the rate of rubber procurement to Rs 300 per kg, the party might gain an MP from the state.
On Vishu, Kerala new year day on April 14, BJP leaders in Kerala hosted bishops and other church leaders for breakfast.
Over the next two days PM Modi will be attending several programmes, including flagging off a Vande Bharat Express.
On Tuesday, he will lay the foundation for the country’s first Digital Science Park. The Rs-1,500-crore project will be a multidisciplinary cluster-based interactive-innovation zone focused on digital technologies and is expected to be completed in two years.
The BJP had scooped up 12.4 per cent of the state’s votes in the last assembly election but failed to win a single seat.
The BJP sees a political opportunity also with the weaking of the Kerala Congress, traditionally seen as a Christian party in Kerala. Former UDF Pathanamthitta chairperson Victor Thomas quit the Kerala Congress yesterday and joined the BJP.
With inputs from NDTV