Meerut: “How is the josh?” “High Sir,” this piece of dialogue from the Bollywood flick Uri – purportedly based on the so-called surgical strike in 2016 post Uri attack – has become a tagline of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his other cabinet colleagues.
The josh (enthusiasm), however, has virtually disappeared from the crowd if the March 28 Vijay Sankalp Rally held in Meerut is anything to go by. Modi, BJP’s star campaigner, sounded his bugle for the election campaign in this rally.
Although BJP workers were dubbing it as the most successful rally, they found it difficult to hold the crowd back even when Modi was speaking from the dais. People were already drifting away from the venue. The attendance was also not as high as it was during the election campaign for 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Local BJP leaders who had been given the charge of mobilising the crowd for the rally said that large numbers had been fetched from adjoining districts like Hapur, Ghaziabad and Muzaffarnagar, but admitted that they left the venue after just having a glimpse of their “favourite” prime minister.
By way of explanation, Vineet Agarwal Sharda, a local BJP leader and chairperson of the Vyapar Prakosht (Traders’ Cell) told this reporter, “People are very well aware about the issues and they come to rally only to see the prime minister. There were more than a lakh people at the venue and it was a great success.”
However, BJP’s local media in-charge for the rally, Gajendra Sharma, had other explanations, contradicting Sharda. He said that the venue was small and huge crowds were not expected.
“The crowd came at the eleventh hour. We called voters only from two districts, Meerut and Muzaffarnagar, although four lawmakers shared the dais with the PM,” he said.
Praise for Air Strike, But Vote for SP-BSP
There was a strange dichotomy among those in the rally, best exemplified by an elderly man who looked like a staunch Modi supporter.
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“I am 65-year-old and at this age, I cannot go to the border to fight with the enemies. We have got such leader for the first time who gives a befitting reply to our enemies by striking inside their country,” he said.
But when asked who will he vote, he very frankly said that his vote is with the Gathbandhan (SP-BSP alliance).
The rally had many young people who were chanting Modi-Modi or Namo-Namo along with abusive slogans targeting Pakistan. They seemed to be aware of only the recent air strike, the earlier surgical strike, the recent anti-satellite missile launch, and the Ujjwala scheme for the LPG connections. When asked about the issue of joblessness and agrarian crisis, they said that they want nothing and are happy with the attacks on Pakistan.
IT Cell Claims Youth Mobilised by Social Media
A highly placed source in the BJP’s IT Cell said that using an encrypted communication tool available on android mobile phones, the Cell had sent out messages related to Modi’s hard approach on nationalism, Ujjwala and the latest anti-satellite strike to over 5000 Facebook groups and around 1000 WhatsApp groups every day in the build-up to the rally. This is what had mobilised the youth, he said.
“I can say that leaders on the ground in Meerut failed to bring the crowd, and it was due to the messages that a large number of youths came to attend the rally,” he told this reporter.
Whether these numbers are correct, it is impossible to find out, but it is evident that the BJP is using social media to create some josh through the so-called air strikes and muscular nationalism. Whether this will translate into votes – or even last till polling day is uncertain.
Dharmendra Malik, spokesperson of the Bharatiya Kisan Union which has been fighting for farmers’ rights, told this reporter, “This very cheap 1.5 GB internet data is not letting people see the real issues. They are easily brainwashed. But very soon, they will understand the truth and will come back on track.”
Meanwhile, everybody could sense that the josh in the rally was low, very low.
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