Tekchand Prajapat is a small subsistence farmer in Alwar district's Bhindusi village in Tijara sub-division of Rajasthan. At age of 60, he otherwise appeared to be a cheerful man but has lost pitch in his voice. With a sickle hung around his shoulder, he was sitting over a cot with a group of fellow villagers in the fields listening intently to others' opinion on 7 December Rajasthan polls. Their opinions were tilted towards Congress, and they were rooting for a change.
But when asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his campaign this time which started incidentally started from Alwar, Prajapat suddenly found his voice trying to raise his pitch. He was provoked because one among the group of seven people sitting there was a Modi critic. The sexagenarian farmer was barely audible but he was so charged that others had to ultimately yield and listen to him. No matter how unhappy he is with the Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan, Prajapat, however, displayed a completely different approach when he talked about the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led government at the Centre. Terming the prime minister as "honest and sincere", the sexagenarian farmer, who belonged to an extremely backward caste, was not averse of having Modi as the prime minister again in 2019. All others except for one seated there were in agreement with Prajapat.
It was a little confusing as people wanted the Raje government to go but wanted the Modi government to return in 2019. The general opinion that emerged from the small gathering in Bhindusi was clear -- Congress in the state, BJP at the Centre.
Covering the distance across the state for four days and meeting various segments of people, it was obvious that Rajasthan may pretty much fit into the classic case of "split voting" (voting differently for state and Parliament). There was a belief that there could be a repeat of the 2014 results when the BJP had won all the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state. In terms of popularity in the state, Modi still has his ratings high and if he can maintain that it would provide a much-needed fillip to the BJP. What was conspicuous is that people clearly demarcated between BJP and Modi.
Few kilometres away, a transporter turned dhaba and tenthouse owner in Tijara, Sunder Singh Chaudhary, who is a Jat by caste, is not happy with the BJP candidate who replaced the incumbent legislator. So much is his despondency that he has decided to vote for an independent. Again, what may prove to be a lifeline for the BJP in 2019, Chaudhary is a fan of the prime minister.
"Modi must remain as the prime minister for another 10 years. In 2019, I will not even bother for the name of the Lok Sabha candidate, his caste, his credential but press the lotus button," he said. Chaudhary still reminisces about Modi's rally he attended in 2014 in Alwar.
Near Mahwa Kalan, 40-year-old Lekhpal who belongs to the Raigar (scheduled caste) community is angry with the Raje government if not with the prime minister.
"Only Modi is trying to deliver goods to the poor even in remote parts of the country. My point is simple. For the next five years we want a Congress government here and Modi government at the Centre. There can't be a better person to rule the country," Lekhpal said.
The popularity of Modi has been so all-pervading that the developmental works even done by the state government are being attributed to the prime minister.
At Gunsi village in Newai sub-division, Shiv Chand said Modi could have done more considering the kind of mandate and expectations people had from him.
Soon another individual Prakash Madi came to the prime minister's rescue.
"Modi has done whatever best one he could do in this system. He is fighting against a system which had become rotten. See the change that he has brought about in the country. If he could find 1,000 persons like him, he would have transformed the fate of the nation in five years. He needs time and must remain prime minister for another 10 years," Madi said.
Kajormal Saini joins the conversation, a man in mid-30s with an axe in his hand. "Modi ek neta hai jo soo nahi jag raha hai, desh ke liye deen-raat kam kar raha hai (He is one leader who is not sleeping, he is awake, working day and night for the country). He is trying hard to bring communities which were left behind in the mainstream. He is to remain the prime minister for the next term so that our generation get a better future," Saini said.
Not only with the working class, but Modi also resonates well among the student community.
First-time voters Rahul Meena, Rahul Mehra and Ashok Gularia who are pursuing BSc in Jaipur National University are all fond of the prime minister although they have little opinion on the chief minister. All three of them think that under the given scenario Modi is the best choice for prime minister and no one from the opposition ranks could come close to him.
Megha Chaudhary from Jodhpur, a post-graduate student of history in the university, unabashedly endorses the prime minister.
"Give another five years to Modi and see where he takes the country. He is on right path, working overtime but not everyone is at the same pace. There is no challenge for him from the opposition. For Parliament, it's Modi from all of us. In the Assembly election, it's Congress," Megha said.