Nearly half of the Gandhi Maidan was empty during the much hyped Sankalp rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, March 3, worrying the BJP leaders more than its allies, Janata Dal-United and Lok Janashakti Party. The poor turnout and thin crowd proved that Modi, who formally launched the NDA’s election campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in Bihar, failed to impress people.
Contrary to the BJP and its allies’ claim that Gandhi Maidan will be overcrowded at Modi’s Sankalp rally, dozens of pictures went viral on social media after Modi concluded his 38 minutes speech, that clearly proved the poor turnout of the people. In his speech at the rally, he mainly focussed on the Pulwama terror attack, the air strike by Indian Air Force and the return of pilot Abhinandan after he was captured in Pakistan.
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A senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity told NewsClick, “No doubt, the crowd at the rally was less than our expectation.” This BJP leader, even if off record, at least admitted that NDA, particularly the BJP, failed to pull its supporters and sympathisers to the rally.
But, officially, the BJP leaders including the state spokesperson are claiming a turnout of over 5 lakh people at the Gandhi Maidan to listen to Modi.
Interestingly, the total capacity of the ground where the rally was held is not more than 4 lakh, as over the years, some portion were developed for different purposes by the government.
The political watchers were taken by surprise that despite the BJP’s claim that more than one million active party workers from booth level to district headquarters and thousands of party leaders would participate in the rally, not even one fourth attended the rally.
Satyanarain Madan, a political researcher, said, “BJP leaders may be discussing behind closed doors as to how the JD-U’s workers and supporters with green flags outnumbered the BJP’s workers and supporters with saffron flags at Gandhi Maidan.”
Ranjeev, a political activist, said, “The BJP-led NDA is in power at the centre as well as in Bihar. The party is known for managing big rallies in the past including the massive 2013 Hunkar rally address by the then BJP Prime Ministerial candidate in Patna ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. However, this time the Sankalp rally proved that the party is either losing ground or Modi is no more as popular as he was five years ago.”
Crores were spent to draw people to the rally and paint Patna saffron with big posters, banners, hoardings, arches and what not. NDA leaders hired 18 special trains, more than 5,000 buses and hundreds of four-wheeler vehicles to ferry their supporters to the rally. In preparation of the rally, leaders of the BJP and its allies JD-U and LJP have been busy since January, touring different parts of the state to mobilise support for the rally.
The Sankalp rally was the first joint rally of Narendra Modi and JD-U chief Nitish Kumar and their first big show after Nitish Kumar joined hands with the BJP in July 2017.
The opposition consisting of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Congress, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, Left parties, Hindusthani Awam Morcha and Vikassheel Insaan Party, have repeatedly accused the NDA of misusing government agencies for over a month to campaign and mobilise people for the Sankalp rally.
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