In any election, political rallies lie at the heart of campaigns. And, in this long, intense election campaign, both Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi have traversed the country exhorting thousands to vote for them. Taken together, they have conducted 245 rallies in 210 constituencies in the space of just 50 days.

Examining where exactly these leaders spoke could provide insights into their respective party’s strategy and prospects.

To do this, Mint analysed all the rallies conducted between 28 March and 17 May, which represents the first and last days of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) nationwide Vijayrath campaign and roughly coincides with Gandhi’s national campaign.

Between the two, Modi has been more active: Speaking at 135 rallies across 134 constituencies, compared to Gandhi’s 110 rallies in 102 constituencies.

In terms of geography, unsurprisingly, most rallies took place in Uttar Pradesh, which contributes the most seats (80) to Parliament. In Uttar Pradesh, Modi toured 30 separate constituencies and only repeated a rally in his current constituency—Varanasi. Gandhi visited 16 constituencies and nearly half of these were in his family bastion of Amethi and Raebarelli, the last two outposts of the Congress party in the state. The Congress’ lack of focus on Uttar Pradesh could simply reflect the reality: A previous Plain Facts column had highlighted that, even with Priyanka Gandhi, the Congress will likely struggle in Uttar Pradesh.

After Uttar Pradesh, Modi focused significantly on eastern states and attended the most rallies in West Bengal (17) and Bihar (10).

Taking the number of constituencies as a proportion of all seats in the state reveals that Modi visited nearly two-fifths of all seats in West Bengal and Odisha, where the party intends to establish a new stronghold.

Gandhi held most rallies in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Kerala.

In both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the Congress had recently formed governments, while in Kerala, the Congress is the opposition to the incumbent Left Democratic Front (LDF). Within both Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, Gandhi visited half of all constituencies highlighting the Congress’ focus.

The frequency of the leaders’ rallies also varied. Modi completed the most rallies towards the end of the campaign, whereas Gandhi attended the most rallies between the second and third phases of the campaign.

On average, both Modi and Gandhi preferred to hold a rally around seven days before a constituency went to polls, perhaps hoping to capitalize on voters who hadn’t decided yet.

Since rallies are targeted towards those voters who are undecided about who they are voting for, the timing of the political rallies can be crucial. According to the CSDS-Lokniti National Election Study (NES), 17.8% of the voters made their decision on whom to vote for during the election campaign, in the general elections of 2014.

Using these results, political scientist Rahul Verma observed that the late deciders overwhelmingly favour the party popularly perceived to be winning the elections.

This could perhaps explain why a significant number of Modi’s rallies in West Bengal were towards the latter end of his campaign.

Besides, parties may also be strategic about the specific constituencies their leaders visited. The highest proportion of rallies by both Modi and Gandhi happened in constituencies that had swung towards the BJP in 2014 (after electing Congress or another party in 2009).

Interestingly, Gandhi held rallies in BJP strongholds nearly as much as Modi did (BJP strongholds defined here as seats which had elected BJP both in 2009 and 2014). Despite electing BJP consecutively, several of these constituencies had high vote shares for the Congress and Gandhi’s rallies could be part of a push to convert these votes into a seat victory.

In contrast, Modi barely visited any Congress stronghold (just 6 out of 34) and he focused more attention on regional party strongholds, especially in West Bengal and Odisha.

Voting decisions are a function of several different factors, but how these rallies were perceived in these constituencies could be an important factor come the final verdict.

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