Narendra Modi's relentless campaign to be India's next prime minister has been so frenetic he has often appeared, magically, to have addressed several rallies throughout the country at the same time.
His party officials have paid tribute to his pioneering use of hologram technology which has allowed him to do just that – speak live to the world's largest electorate at rallies in dozens of remote towns all over the country as though he were there in the flesh.
It is believed to be the first time hologram technology has been used in a general election campaign – its most popular use to date has been for a posthumous performance by the rapper Tupac Shakur at Coachella in 2012.
Now Modi plans to use the technology increasingly at his rally appearances to reach five million more voters in the last two weeks of the Indian election campaign. He will appear live, in 3-D, at more than 90 rallies in small towns from Andhra Pradesh in the south, through Bihar in the east, north through Allahabad, his Congress rival Rahul Gandhi's Amethi constituency and up into the Himalayan foothills at Nainital in Uttarakhand and Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh.
He has already addressed more than 800 rallies in hologram form where his lifelike performance has been greeted with a mix of awe and disbelief. Many poorly educated voters had stayed behind after rallies to check behind the dais to see if he was really there, officials said.
Bharatiya Janata Party officials told The Telegraph the use of hologram technology had enabled Modi to reach voters he would not otherwise address in some of the country's most inaccessible corners from studios in Delhi and Ahmedabad in Gujarat where he is chief minister.
They believe it has played a vital role in extending the “Modi wave” – the appearance that he has unstoppable momentum in the campaign. So far he has given eight hologram speeches to 900 rallies, each drawing average crowds of 10,000. By the time voting finishes on May 12, he will have given a further six speeches at 1450 rallies and reached more than 14 million extra voters.
Party spokeswoman Nirmala Sitaram said at some remote locations, where illiteracy is high, audience members believed Modi had actually visited and were perplexed when the image simply disappeared at the end of the speech.
“When the lights are switched on and the public sees the stage is bare, the whole set has gone away, it creates a sense of awe. The illiterate in India's villages are used to films but this is better…..They think he has probably gone to the green room. They wait for the experience to sink in and ask where he is. Is he behind [the stage]? Their faces are so surprised. They say 'This happened and I saw it'”, she said.
Modi had experimented with hologram technology for rallies during his 2012 state assembly elections in Gujarat, and had assembled a team of up to 40 technologists and more than 400 camera and sound staff in 120 truck-based teams.