New Delhi: Long flights. Jam-packed rallies. Marathon trips. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels, and he has travelled a lot, his visits — foreign and domestic — are in the news.
Known to keep tight schedules and preferring to sleep inside the aircraft to save up on time, Modi’s marathon trips reveal not just his preference for allies in India and abroad, but also underscores an important link to his trips: party work is as important as official government visits.
But as the Lok Sabha elections near, his focus has shifted to more domestic trips in comparison to his extensive foreign visits.
From the list provided on the PMO website, News18.com has analysed Modi’s foreign and domestic trips since assuming office in May 2014 till February 19, 2019.
Since 2014, Modi has embarked on 48 foreign trips which were covered in 192 days. During these trips, Modi travelled to almost 92 countries, often repeating the same countries during various visits for different purposes. He has also travelled 12 times to India’s immediate neighbours, including Pakistan.
The cost of his chartered flight, hotline and aircraft maintenance charges for the foreign trips, as per the official data, come to Rs 2021.59 crore.
Modi has also made 328 domestic tours, often visiting more than one state a day. He has spent 389 days visiting Indian states 388 times for official, personal and party work.
The official work broadly included inaugurations, launching of schemes, holding review meetings, attending summits (BRICS, Vibrant Gujarat etc.) and so on. His party work comprised holding rallies for BJP candidates during Assembly elections, meeting party workers and other party leaders not in power.
The cost of all his domestic tours, which has not been released yet, come from the Ministry of Defence budget. Whether and how the expenses for the party work are split remains a mystery.
In comparison, Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh either travelled for official work or non-official work, never for both on the same trip, according to the official government archive of his travel as the prime minister.
Singh spent almost 368 days travelling during his first term in UPA-1 and almost 285 days during his second term in UPA-2. In contrast, Modi has spent almost 580 days travelling. This is nearly one-third of his term.
Party Comes First
The analysis also revealed Modi’s consistent focus in promoting BJP through rallies for state elections — and now for general elections — even on official trips.
In September 2014, he missed the Climate Change Summit in New York to attend a party function in Bengaluru. Recently, he skipped the all-party meeting hosted by the NDA to discuss the Pulwama terror attack and instead addressed rallies in Varanasi.
The analysis shows that in 2014, Modi spent fewer days on official trips than for party work, while in 2017, he spent almost the same number of days on both. Apart from that, he clubbed 53 (13.6%) of his official trips with party work in the five years of domestic tours. This also includes the trips marked ‘official’, but the PM took time out to meet BJP workers. All these have been categorised under ‘Both Official and Party Work’.
The official trips to attend swearing-in ceremonies of BJP or allied CMs been categorised under ‘party work’. Since September 28, 2018, the PMO website has only listed the places visited by Modi and not the programmes. While the website lists only 22 ‘non-official’ trips, News18 analysis shows the number to be 28.
As many as 29 of Modi’s official trips also include temple visits like the ones to Sant Ravidas Temple, Sri Siddaganga Mutt (Tumkur), Durgiana Mandir (Punjab), Golden Temple, Kedarnath and so on. One of these visits was to Gonda in Uttar Pradesh for the unveiling of a 112-feet Shiva statue.
Calling such visits ‘grey area’, Rasheed Kidwai, an author and visiting fellow with Observer Research Foundation, told News18, “Elections in India are complex and the voters are highly volatile. Such temple visits by anybody are not a game-changer… By visiting temples, (Modi) reinforces his image of a Hindu leader. (These are) well-thought (trips) catering to the constituencies.”
Focus on States That Have More Lok Sabha Seats
The focus of Modi’s domestic visit travels have been states that send most MPs to the Lok Sabha — Uttar Pradesh (66 times) followed by Gujarat (38 times), Maharashtra (29 times), Bihar and Madhya Pradesh (20 times each).
Some of the events or rallies that Modi has led in the last five years are parivartan (transformation) rallies in several states, including in Karnataka, the Vijay Shankhanad Rally (February 4, 2017 in Uttar Pradesh), Aabhar Rally (October 3, 2017 and December 27, 2018 in Himachal Pradesh), Gaurav Maha Sammelan (October 16, 2017 in Gujarat), Anna Data Samavesh (February 27, 2018 in Karnataka) and Kisaan Kalyan Rally (July 16, 2017 in West Bengal).
Modi also addressed BJP Kisan Morcha’s national convention in Gorakhpur followed by a visit to Kumbh at Prayagraj on February 24. On February 27, he visited Kanpur for the second UP investors’ summit and to Amethi, the constituency of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, on February 28.
“These are handiworks of spin doctors who seem to have a kind of magic-bullet theory solution promising certain dividends. (But) these have limited impact, otherwise Gandhis and Nehrus would not have gone out of power. I doubt the efficacy of these. A lot comes down to delivery,” Kidwai said.