Outsiders throng Modi rally, Lucknow locals aloof

At massive rally in state capital, Modi makes a point to Mulayam – on crowd, and development

trithesh

Trithesh Nandan | March 2, 2014


Bumper to bumper: On the highway towards the venue of Narendra Modi`s rally in Lucknow on Sunday.
Trithesh Nandan/ Governance Now

In his late twenties, Bhagwan Das came all the way from Lalitpur to Lucknow on a Sunday, as did Nitya Gopal and Ashok Awasthi, both residents of Fatehpur. The trio, in fact, was not unlike hundreds – indeed thousands – of others who came to the state capital. Ramabai Ambedkar stadium on the outskirts of Lucknow, to be precise, where BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi held his ‘Vijay Sankhnad’ rally – his eighth in Uttar Pradesh.

 

Like Das, Gopal and Awasthi, there were many who came from nearby cities like Hardoi, Amethi, Rae Bareli, Sultanpuri, Unnao, Fatehpur, Lalitpur to be part of the rally, which, for the party’s local unit, was a prestige issue of sorts on a day Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, along with CM Akhilesh Yadav and the whole party brass, addressed a rally in Allahabad and Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal held a roadshow barely a couple of hours away in Kanpur.

And on that front, the BJP's crowd management scored a huge six.

While people from nearby cities and towns filled the stadium, locals were seemingly aloof, showing little interest. People streamed in for the show of strength as buses, cars, jeeps, SUVs and other vehicles lined up both sides of highway, and some came in trains from as far as Gorakhpur. If anything can be read in that enthusiasm, it is the unmistakable hope pinned on Modi. 

Take Bhagwan Das, for instance. Illiterate and without a job, he came to the rally (having been asked to do so by “elders” in his village) wearing a Modi cap, and expecting miracles of the man the BJP believes would be India’s next PM. “I see hope in him (Modi). He can bring in change and remove unemployment,” Das said. 

Ashok Awasthi, too, echoed the sentiment.

On the dais, Modi was deliberately late so that he could answer Mulayam Singh Yadav’s jibes. The Samajwadi Party supremo was addressing his Allahabad rally shortly before Modi’s speech and attacked the Gujarat chief minister on his purported role in the 2002 riots.

In his reply, Modi took on Yadav on the development plank: “Gujarat gets 24-hour electricity for 365 days a year. In UP, there is reservation in distribution of electricity – areas of Netaji (Yadav) get regular supply, while other places do not get power.”

Modi also hit out at the SP government on the issue of communal violence. “In the past one year of your son’s (Akhilesh’s) rule, more than 150 riots have taken place in UP, while there was not a single riot in Gujarat in the last 10 years. Not even curfew was clamped at any place,” he said, so “don’t compare Gujarat with UP on development.” 

In a lighter vein, typical of the way Modi works up the crowd, he added: “I have been talking about politics of development for past 10 years and I am happy that he (Mulayam) has also started talking about it.” 

Alleging that nothing concrete was done to ensure development in UP, Modi said even traditional industries were not promoted and, as a result, turned sick.

Mulayam earlier criticised Modi on the number of people in the rally, saying, "You should compete on the basis of development rather than the crowds." 

In reply, Modi said, “Netaji (Mulayam) has conceded defeat in his address...by saying that he cannot compete with the crowd at my rally…. By talking about development, Yadav has been forced (by BJP) to leave his old ways and come to this topic.”

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