PM Modi wears Kerala attire, holds roadshows and inaugurations in South India state

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Kerala on Monday as part of a two-day official visit in what many say is a move to bring voters into the fold of the national ruling BJP party.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has long made concerted efforts to expand its following in the South Indian state, including now for the 2024 lower house election.

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For years, the two main coalition parties - the presently-ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) – have administered Kerala.

But the recent formation of a new Christian party, the Kerala Congress, and the new warmth between the Catholic Church and the Sangh Parivar have rekindled the BJP’s electoral hopes in the state, local news media reported.

Modi’s two-day visit was packed with inaugurations, roadshows and meetings, including with senior Church leaders, who the prime minister hopes to court as part of an outreach campaign for youth and the state’s minority-classified communities.

On Monday, wearing the Kerala traditional attire, Modi walked 20 minutes down a stretch of road in Kochi, waving to onlookers as he was showered with flowers, to the sounds of the ‘chenda melam’ – a percussion instrument used for all Kerala art forms and an integral part of festivals.

Indian PM Narendra Modi in Kerala. (Twitter)
Indian PM Narendra Modi in Kerala. (Twitter)

The walk concluded without mishaps. Kerala Police on Sunday arrested a Kochi native who wrote a letter threatening a suicide bomb attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, The Indian Express reported. Security was also beefed-up following media reports of a leak of the security arrangements during Modi’s visit.

Indian PM Narendra Modi in Kerala. (Twitter)
Indian PM Narendra Modi in Kerala. (Twitter)

At the end of the show, he addressed a thousands-large youth meeting where he praised the younger generation for their vibrancy, and called on them to lead India’s “developmental journey.”

Indian PM Narendra Modi in Kerala. (Twitter)
Indian PM Narendra Modi in Kerala. (Twitter)

On stage in Kochi were personalities from various walks of life, including film actor and politician Suresh Gopi, actors Aparna Balamurali, Unni Mukundan, Navya Nair, singers Vijay Yesudas and S. Harisankar, among others.

During his speech, Modi highlighted his governing policies with an emphasis on job creation, while taking a dig at the policies of the current state government, as well as that of the Congress-led United Front who are in the opposition.

He is said to have met with the leaders of various churches, including the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Cardinal George Alencherry, Syro-Malankara Catholic Church head Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, Syrian Orthodox Church head Baselios Marthoma Mathews III and Metropolitan Trustee of the Jacobite Church Joseph Mor Gregorios, according to media reports.

Tuesday, he arrived in the state-capital city of Thiruvananthapuram, where he was once again welcomed with pomp.

He flagged off Kerala’s first Vande Bharat Express in Thiruvananthapuram, an indigenously produced, semi-high-speed electric train. The train will run between 11 districts: Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Pathanamthitta, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasargod.

Indian PM Narendra Modi in Kerala. (Twitter)
Indian PM Narendra Modi in Kerala. (Twitter)

At this event, Modi met the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who reportedly thanked him for the allocation. Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan and BJP-opposition Congress MP Shashi Tharoor were also present.

Indian PM Narendra Modi in Kerala. (Twitter)
Indian PM Narendra Modi in Kerala. (Twitter)

Modi also inaugurated the Kochi Water Metro, the first-of-a-kind ferry service that works in tandem with the city’s metro stations. The battery-operated hybrid boat will connect 10 islands around Kochi.

Additionally, Modi will also lay the foundation stones for the country’s first Digital Science Park in Thiruvananthapuram, being developed for $183 million, and some other rail projects.

He is expected to depart Kerala late on Tuesday to travel to Silvassa via Surat, after which he will head back to the Indian capital city of New Delhi, concluding a 36-hour trip across eight cities.

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