NEW DELHI : Launching the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s election campaign for the first phase of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said that Hindus and Muslims should come out in large numbers to vote for a government which is corruption-free, ensures basic health facilities, creates employment opportunities for the youth and works for women’s safety.

At his rally in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, Modi told the farmers that the Union government was working for them, and the sugarcane dues will be paid to them at the earliest by the state government under chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

Besides Meerut, the Prime Minister held two more public meetings on Thursday at Rudrapur in Uttarakhand, and at Akhnoor in the Jammu region.

“Hindus, Muslims, youth, women and voters of urban and rural areas should come out in large numbers to vote. Do not let people misguide you on the day of voting. We have to make a strong and decisive government. We have to make a government which works for a New India, a place where there is no corruption, health and education for all, and basic facilities are available to everyone, where women are safe and farming is profitable," said Modi.

The three public meetings are in areas going to polls in the first phase of general elections and voting for the first phase is scheduled to take place on 11 April.

Describing the coalition between Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Rahstriya Lok Dal (RLD) as mahamilavat, Modi said that the three parties were only interested in seeking votes in the name of caste and religion and these parties were not interested in development of the people and the region. Modi also said that sugarcane farmers used to suffer under the rule of both BSP and SP because farmers neither got their money nor respect. Modi said that when BJP came to power in Uttar Pradesh, the dues of sugarcane farmers was Rs,35,000 crore and the state government has managed to pay most of the money to the farmers.

“The poor of the country have realised that if they want to remove poverty and then they should ensure that Congress does not come to power. Poor have decided to defeat Congress from every corner of the country," PM said at the public meeting.

The choice of Meerut as the starting point of Modi’s election campaign is interesting because Modi had visited the city soon after he was nominated as the prime ministerial candidate of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before the 2014 general elections. The impact of Modi’s campaign and his personal popularity was such that BJP won all the seats in western Uttar Pradesh during the previous general elections and the performance was repeated in 2017 assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh is key to BJP’s plan to return to power as the state has 80 Lok Sabha constituencies and BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had won 73 out of total 80 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 general elections.

The second public meeting of the day was held in Rudrapur in Uttarakhand. BJP had won all the five Lok Sabha seats in 2014 general elections and the party would want continue its political stronghold on the state. BJP had won the assembly elections held in 2017 in the state.

Speaking at the public meeting in Akhnoor, Modi blamed Congress, National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the problems of Jammu and Kashmir. “Congress, NC & PDP are responsible for the problems Jammu and Kashmir faces today. Sadly, national security is not a priority for them, they only care about power," Modi said in Akhnoor.