The Cost to the Nation of a Perpetually Campaigning Prime Minister

The Wire looks at the PM’s several inauguration sprees which have been twinned with party campaigns for state elections, since the 2022 Gujarat polls. Who benefits when the PM inaugurates a road bypass or does a ‘griha pravesh’ timed with polls in the area?

Hyderabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Hyderabad on November 29, 2020, for just an hour, to review ongoing COVID-19 vaccine trials at Bharat Biotech. The Hyderabad Police confirmed the PM’s visit and schedule to the media only three days prior, on November 26, 2020. While this was certainly an ‘official visit’, according to the Union government, it was nothing less than a surprise visit by Modi for the city police.

The timing of Modi’s visit was interesting, it was just two days before Hyderabad voted in a fiercely contested municipal election after aggressive campaigning by the ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (then Telangana Rashtra Samithi) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Although Modi did not make any speeches, the ‘official’ visit by Modi seemed to have served an intended and unofficial purpose for the BJP, as TV channels and social media in Telangana focused singularly on the Modi’s visit, while hailing his efforts to combat the pandemic.

It is no secret, and often held out as a point of pride, that Modi is perpetually in election mode. That Modi is BJP’s primary vote-catcher is no secret and his face is projected in every election, from local body polls to the parliament elections. Modi, too, repeats often that every vote cast for the BJP in every election directly goes to him.

The timing of official visits by PM Modi, the kind of inaugurations done by him and the cost of such exercises to the public exchequer are a subject of grim debate. They also prompt us to wonder how fair the playing field actually is for elections in India now and in the run up to 2024.

Consider the following headlines:

Inauguration Spree

In the last nine years since Modi took over as PM, he has displayed great zeal for  BJP’s election campaigns across states where elections are due. There is usually an inauguration spree (‘official’ events), followed by him addressing umpteen number of political rallies, in the months leading up to the elections.

In Karnataka, which votes tomorrow, these inaugurations by the PM have been unfailingly followed by his participation in the BJP’s election campaign events. Some of these events are even held up for months, if not years, and others are incomplete. But the PM inaugurates them anyway in the months leading up to the elections.

The inauguration of Sir M. Visvesvaraya Terminal at Bengaluru’s Baiyyappanahalli is a case in point. Although officials claimed that it was ready in March 2021, it was thrown open to the public fully after Modi inaugurated it in a publicised event in June 2022 – a good 15 months later. Officials had told Times of India in July 2021 that it was delayed on the account of the PM’s presence and formal inauguration. The delay in utilisation of a finished project had attracted criticism from railway users and activists.

The Sir M. Visvesvaraya Terminal at Bengaluru’s Baiyyappanahalli.

In other instances, Modi went about inaugurating what opposition parties and citizens called “half-baked” projects.

In the last week of March this year, the inauguration of the Bengaluru Metro’s Purple Line from Whitefield to K.R. Puram by Modi was reportedly “rushed” even though a good amount of work on the corridor is yet to be completed. However, Modi took the Metro ride with the usual fanfare, with the local BJP government publicising it widely. Eleven days after Modi inaugurated the line, a station on the corridor had a leaking roof and standing water near the ticket counter. Citing the pending work and its reduced utility, Congress took a dig at the PM, saying that Modi had inaugurated the metro line from “nowhere to nowhere”.

The inauguration of Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway by Modi has also attracted similar criticism. Three days after the publicised inauguration, photos emerged on social media of roads on the expressway damaged due to rains.

In other instances, Modi was seen inaugurating projects which do not merit an inauguration by a PM. There have been instances where he clubbed official and party events, blurring the necessary demarcation between government and party work. For instance, on March 12, Modi inaugurated the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway in his official capacity as the PM but it was only after he held a massive roadshow in Mandya as BJP’s campaigner. Activists from Karnataka pointedly asked the PM as to who paid for the roadshow. On the same day, he also inaugurated IIT campus at Dharwad, an official event but was alleged to have become a BJP event with the Basvaraj Bommai government ferrying people, allegedly BJP workers, from across the state to attend the programme.

Also read: Karnataka Govt Spent Rs 9.49 Crore on PM Modi’s Inauguration of IIT Dharwad Campus: RTI

Karnataka is one state where Modi has spent the longest time in any year since he became PM in 2014.

We look at the PM’s inauguration blitz in five states where elections were held recently, in Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland, and Gujarat, as well as in Karnataka, where the election will be held on May 10.


Starting from January 12 this year, Modi has visited Karnataka eight times so far – the maximum number of times that he has visited any state in any given year since he took over as the PM in 2014. Each day between April 29 and May 8, Modi addressed three to four rallies.

Writing for Hindustan Times, A. Narayana noted that over the course of 21 public meetings and several roadshows, BJP has pretty much singularly banked on Modi’s image and position to turn the anti-incumbency tides.

The PM’s frequent visits to the state this year began on January 12 when he addressed a national youth festival in north Karnataka’s Hubbali. He returned to the state on January 19 to launch development projects worth Rs 4,223 crore near Kodekal in Hunsagi taluk of Yadgir district. On the same day, he also delivered a speech at Malkhed, and gave away title deeds (hakku patra) to eligible beneficiaries of newly declared revenue villages.

Starting with his presence at India Energy Week, an official event, in Bengaluru on February 6, Modi visited the state four days that month. He laid the foundation stone for the Tumakuru Industrial Township and dedicated a HAL helicopter factory to the nation. Within a week, he was seen again in Bengaluru on February 13 to flag off Aero India 2023. On February 25, he addressed the Amrit Mahotsav of Delhi-Karnataka Sangha in Delhi.

The PM visited Shivamogga in central Karnataka to inaugurate the Shivamogga airport, besides addressing a public meeting and launching several development projects on February 27. On the same day, he also headed to Belagavi in north Karnataka to launch several multiple development initiatives and to release the 13th instalment of PM-KISAN.

Before the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced the dates for Karnataka polls on March 29, Modi visited the state twice that month. On March 12, he inaugurated and kicked off several development initiatives in Mandya and Hubbali-Dharwad. He was yet again in the state on March 25 for the inauguration of Sri Madhusudan Sai Institute of Medical Science and Research in Chikkaballapur.

Less than a week after PM Modi inaugurated the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway, built at a cost of Rs 8,480 crore, large stretches of it were flooded after a night of heavy rainfall on March 18. Activists from the state have accused the authorities of controversially opening the road in a hurry and disturbing the natural waterscape of the area. The Wire reported on how the inauguration was pushed through even though the project was only 70% complete.

Repair work on the Bengaluru-Mysore expressway. Photo: Twitter/@NHAI_Official

Modi’s frequent visits to Karnataka continued even in April on official engagements (and public expense) after the ECI announced the schedule for polls on March 29. The poll code came into effect on the same day.

He visited the state on April 9 to inaugurate various events at Bandipur Tiger Reserve on the completion of 50 years of the Tiger Project. The opposition Congress flayed the PM’s visit, calling it a violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).

The Congress has also called him a”political tourist” to the state. “He never bothered to visit when Karnataka faced the flood fury (last year). When the lives of people were affected, and properties were damaged, PM Modi did not bother to turn towards the state and did not care to release a single rupee to the state. Thanks to elections, PM Modi has become a tourist in the state,” the Karnataka unit of the Congress party said.

Opposition and civil society in the state have questioned why the Basavaraj Bommai government had to spend government resources to ferry people in hired buses and arrange lunches for attendees, a practice seen in political meetings and not in government events. As The Wire reported earlier, RTI replies have revealed that the Bommai-led BJP government spent a cumulative Rs 9.49 crore on ferrying people, lunches, stage set-ups, branding, promotions, and other logistics for the inauguration of IIT-Dharwad’s new campus by Modi on March 12.

PM Narendra Modi and Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai at the inauguration of the IIT Dharwad campus. Photo: Twitter/@iitdhrwd

According to the government’s own admission, it had spent Rs 2.83 crore on KSRTC buses to transport people to the venue and back, while Rs 86 lakh was spent on providing lunch. The sound, LED lighting, and CCTV installations came at Rs 40 lakh and around Rs 4.68 crore was spent on erecting a German tent, the stage, setting up a ‘green room’, and barricades. An additional Rs 61 lakh were spent on the branding of the event.

Opposition parties in Karnataka have hit out at the grand inauguration ceremonies that PM Modi has been attending, and have alleged that public money was indirectly being spent on Modi’s election campaign for the BJP. Deftly clubbing these official events with party events, Modi has addressed several party meetings each time he has visited the state.

In fact, Modi himself recently told civil servants to check and act against ruling parties “using taxpayers’ money in the nation’s interest or for its own organisation’s interests”.

“You have to see to it…whether the political party is using government money for its own expansion and creating vote bank politics or to make the lives of people easier,” he said in his address on Civil Services Day on April 21.

Also read: How the Civil Servant Can Really Guard Taxpayers’ Money


Tripura went to polls on February 16 this year, and the election was announced on January 18. Although the BJP had a clear edge in the elections, political developments in the state in the months leading up to the February polls had the saffron party worried.

On December 18, nearly a month before the MCC came into force, Modi launched development projects worth over Rs 4,350 crore in Tripura. He launched the ‘Grih Pravesh’ programme, wherein newly constructed houses at Rs 3,400 crore under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana were given away to beneficiaries. In fact, the PM’s programme was supposed to be held initially on October 27-28, 2022, however, it was postponed twice to December 18, 2022 finally, leading to speculation that it could be a  case of ‘timing’ the official event to allegedly benefit BJP’s poll prospects.

On the same day, Modi inaugurated a project for widening the Agartala bypass (Khayerpur-Amtali) on NH-08 to help ease traffic congestion in Agartala city. Routine repairs, road diversions and other civic work, such as widening of a bypass road, being flagged off by a PM raises a different set of questions. The foundation stone for the project, by the way, had been laid by the Modi government’s minister for transport, Nitin Gadkari, in a virtual meeting in October 2020.

The PM also inaugurated a project for widening National Highway 8 and laying foundation stones for 32 road projects with a cumulative length of 232 km under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. He flagged off 112 state and district highway projects of 542 km.

In fact, it was not the first time that the PM chose to inaugurate such minor projects, which at best can be described as ‘municipal-level’ work. In the run-up to the 2019 general election, Modi had laid the foundation stone for the refurbishment of a gaushala (cow shelter) under the Ghaziabad Municipality and inaugurated a 37 km sewage line, sewer facilities for 9,000 houses and so on in the same city near Delhi.

Meghalaya and Nagaland

The PM also launched multiple projects on December 18, 2022, in Meghalaya, nearly two months before the northeastern state voted in assembly elections on February 27 this year. He flagged off projects worth Rs 2,450 in the state capital, Shillong.

The PM also attended a meeting of the North Eastern Council at the State Convention Centre in Shillong and participated in its golden jubilee celebrations.

Ahead of the election on February 27, Modi undertook a huge ‘roadshow’ on February 24 to boost BJP’s poll prospects. Despite the fact that BJP is a minor player in the state, Modi chose to personally canvas in the state. In the ensuing results, the BJP won two seats and joined the government headed by Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party.

In Nagaland, it was the Union home minister, Amit Shah, who flagged off several projects in January. The state voted in assembly polls on February 27. The PM addressed a huge public rally in the state’s Dimapur on February 24 along with alliance partner Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) chief and chief minister Neiphiu Rio.


Modi’s home state, Gujarat, which went to polls in December 2022, saw the PM addressing over 50 political rallies in the months leading up to elections in addition to several ‘official’ events. The state voted in two phases on December 1 and 5 last year.

In September 2022, news reports estimated that Modi had launched development projects worth Rs 29,000 crore in the state. In November 2022, days before ECI announced poll dates, he launched projects worth Rs 11,760 crore.

A controversy emerged over the announcement of elections in Gujarat. It is the standard practice for the ECI to declare election schedules together for the states which go to polls around the same time. Allegations were levelled against ECI that it deliberately chose to separate the announcements for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, and delayed the announcement for the schedule for Gujarat a fortnight after it declared the schedule for Himachal Pradesh only to allow PM Modi to get more time to “make promises and inaugurations“. The counting of votes in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh took place on the same day – December 8, 2022.

If we go further back in time, Modi launched as many as 157 projects in the last 30 days before the model code of conduct came into force before the 2019 general elections, according to data collated by NDTV. Modi’s inauguration spree was indeed in stark contrast to his predecessor, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who made no visits in the month before the Model Code came into effect before the 2014 general elections, according to a government archive of his travel itinerary.