Eye on India: Last-mile issues could trip Modi in India's heartland

Far left: India's marginalised Dalit community members protesting in New Delhi. Left: Ms Fathima Bano, 46, of Phulpur showing The Sunday Times her brand new gas stove. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, RAVI VELLOOR India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi wa
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi waving to his supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi two weeks ago. Varanasi is in the politically vital Uttar Pradesh province. Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party won 73 of the 80 seats in the province in 2014.PHOTO: REUTERS
Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supporters at a rally with the Rashtriya Lok Dal. The SP and BSP, representing the poor, have joined forces against the BJP.
Above: India's marginalised Dalit community members protesting in New Delhi. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Far left: India's marginalised Dalit community members protesting in New Delhi. Left: Ms Fathima Bano, 46, of Phulpur showing The Sunday Times her brand new gas stove. PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, RAVI VELLOOR India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi wa
Above: Ms Fathima Bano, 46, of Phulpur showing The Sunday Times her brand new gas stove.PHOTO: RAVI VELLOOR

For the past two weeks, associate editor Ravi Velloor has been travelling in the Indian heartland, entering the homes of the poorest in the countryside as well as people in urban areas, sometimes braving 43 deg C heat in the plains. This is the first of his three reports on India's seven-stage elections, the results of which will be announced on May 23.

ALLAHABAD • Thirty years ago this month, I stood on the sports grounds of a college in this Gangetic town, home to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, and watched students throw sandals and shoes at the late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, then running for a second term.

Just five years earlier, Mr Gandhi had swept to office in a landslide following the assassination of his mother and predecessor Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. At the time, the press lauded him as "Mr Clean".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 05, 2019, with the headline 'Last-mile issues could trip Modi in India's heartland'. Print Edition | Subscribe