They are both crisscrossing the country, battling heat, dust and a punishing travel schedule that affords them little time to relax or eat. Yet, both Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, the two generals of rival political armies, have little choice but to remain fighting fit in order stay the course of a gruelling election campaign.
Both Modi and Gandhi follow exercise and diet regimens, their aides said. With rallies and public engagements lined up throughout the day, the two leaders also take special care of their vocal chords. While Gandhi apparently has jogging and the gym as part of his exercise regimen, Modi reposes faith in yoga.
Modi, 63, is the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party while Gandhi, 43, is leading the Congress campaign for the nine-phased Lok Sabha elections that begin April 7 and end May 16, with the results being declared May 16.
Congress sources said that party vice president Gandhi is "a fitness freak" who likes to regularly exercise. They said that election-related work sometimes keeps Gandhi awake late into the night, but he does not wake up late in the morning.
"Even if he works late, Rahul Gandhi wakes up early by 6 am. He is a fitness freak. Whenever he finds time, he goes for jogging," a party leader, who did not want to be identified, told IANS.
He said Gandhi relishes a heavy breakfast but lunch and dinner are normally light. "The food could be local if he is traveling but it has to be light," the leader said.
Gandhi browses through the newspaper clippings sent to him before he begins his day. The leader said Gandhi tries to avoid cold water so as not to get a bad throat during the peak campaign period.
Another party functionary said Gandhi likes to go to the gym whenever possible.
"He leads a disciplined life. Just like his mother (party president Sonia Gandhi), he is careful about his diet. If you exercise regularly and have a regulated life style, you are likely to stay fit," the functionary added.
A party worker told IANS that Gandhi was particular about his exercise and has gone jogging even at odd hours during his outstation visits.
"He likes cycling. He is a good swimmer," said the worker, who has attended a few party meetings outside Delhi convened by Gandhi.
"His fitness can be gauged from the ease with which he crossed and jumped over a barricade at a rally in Uttar Pradesh last month to meet party supporters," the worker pointed out.
Gandhi is also learnt to have taken lessons in boxing and the martial arts.
He is known to be fond of local cuisine and has, in his earlier sojourns to states, sampled food at public places.
Modi's aides said that Gujarat chief minister is an early riser and has simple food habits.
Birendra Juyal, central coordinator of Modi's tour programmes, said that Modi gets up well before 5 a.m. and begins his day with yoga.
"These days Modi is on fast due to the navratras (a nine-day period Hindus consider holy). He takes fruit," Juyal told IANS.
He said that Modi likes to read newspapers but these days due to paucity of time owing to campaign, he sometimes reads clippings during his flights.
Juyal, who has known Modi from the early 1990s, said the BJP leader has been fasting during Navratras for several years.
Another aide, who did not want to be quoted, said that Modi takes light meals when he is not fasting.
"For breakfast, he may take light food such as poha, idli or dosa. The lunch and dinner could include dal-rice, Gujarati kadhi or kichdi," the aide said.
He said Modi was avoiding cold things these days apparently to take care of his vocal chords.
"He also drinks lukewarm lime water," the aide added.
He said Modi retires for the night around midnight as he addresses about four rallies in a day.
While Modi is expected to address over 150 rallies in the next 34 days, Rahul Gandhi could address around 100. Sonia Gandhi would also address several rallies across the country, Congress sources said.
A Congress functionary said that any leader who is marshaling his troops in a battlefield is motivated and stays fit.
"When you are leading the party into the battle, it gets your adernaline-level up. You are driven by motivation," the functionary said.