Rally, really?

Modi's brand of celebrity rally may be a new twist to an old tradition

Move over Beyonce, Narendra Modi is here. The BJP has opened its counters for Narendra Modi's Nava Bharat Yuva Bheri, to be held in Hyderabad in August. Tickets will cost Rs 5, and the proceeds will go towards relief for the Uttarakhand floods. The crowd will be strictly hip and young the party is targeting Andhra's IT professionals and college students, the audience is to be aged between 18 and 40. The BJP could consider selling armbands and other memorabilia. Political rally as rock concert may be an idea whose time has finally come.

Or has it? The rally, an enduring image of democratic politics in India, was written off with the growing reach of television channels and the advent of social media. With leaders beaming their message straight to voters' homes, it was felt no one would trudge to maidans in the sweltering heat to listen to a politician barely visible through the crowd. Yet the rally did not die. It remains a focal point for political mobilisation, as anxious parties ferry voters to meeting grounds, arrange for food packets and plaster every available wall with publicity posters. "Brigade chalo" posters have become synonymous with the CPM in West Bengal, for instance. It also remains the platform from which the big political messages are sent out be it the Congress's FDI rally in Delhi last year, or Nitish Kumar's Adhikar Rally also in the capital in March, where he demanded special category status for Bihar, and announced that his countdown to 2014 had begun.

It probably takes a leader like Modi, drunk on his alleged star power, to market the rally. And the BJP may think twice about selling tickets once the crisis in Uttarakhand has passed. But could this spark off a new trend in electoral politics?

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