Narendra Modi's BJP on top as people turn to bite the UPA govt's hand that feeds

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Many in this new middle class believe the next step up the income ladder will come when Narendra Modi assumes power. In picture: A tailor (R) waits for customers at his shop at Kasba Bonli town in Rajasthan. (Reuters) Many in this new middle class believe the next step up the income ladder will come when Narendra Modi assumes power. In picture: A tailor (R) waits for customers at his shop at Kasba Bonli town in Rajasthan. (Reuters)
SummaryGujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has emerged on top going into general elections.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has emerged on top going into General elections 2014 despite Congress-led UPA govt having poured $20 bn a year into rural India in addition to free education, health.

Kasba Bonli is a newly prosperous market town in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan and it should be a perfect advertisement for the ruling Congress party's pro-farmer policies. Instead the buzz in the bazaar is for the opposition.

In just a few years, handouts for farmers by Congress have helped turn the once-deprived village into a thriving retail centre, selling everything from glittery bangles to satellite dishes.

The Congress party-led government pours at least $20 billion a year into rural India in addition to free education and health and cheap food. Cheap fertiliser, seeds and electricity, 100 days of guaranteed paid work a year and new rural roads have given farmers cash to spend.

These funds have helped create an emerging middle class, mostly in semi-urban and small towns, which one estimate has put at almost a quarter of India's 1.2 billion people.

But many in this new middle class believe the next step up the income ladder will come when the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Narendra Modi, its candidate for prime minister and currently the Gujarat chief minister, will be in power. That bodes ill for Congress ahead of a 2014 general election that must be held by May.

Farmer Raghuvir Meena, who voted for Congress in the last state polls, bought two new tractors over the past few years and nearly doubled his farming area, attributing the prosperity to better farming techniques and seeds. He sent three of his four children to college to train as teachers. Now he wants to get out of farming and this time Modi has his vote.

"Modi's track record in Gujarat has excited the youth. Even I would love to see BJP come back to power, for my kids, for their jobs," he said, juggling phone calls on his mobile.

Modi is widely seen as a business-friendly reformer who has attracted investment and bolstered economic growth in Gujarat, providing jobs to many.

For Congress this trend in the small towns is the latest in a series of reverses. It is already battling slowing economic growth, perceptions of poor governance, several corruption scandals and the growing popularity of Modi.

For decades, Congress relied on its pro-farmer policies giving it rural votes. Then, at the last election

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