Is it possible to hire 70,000 LED TV for a day or two? And if so, at what cost? While the riddle whether the Bharatiya Janata party hired the TV sets or had bought them is yet to be solved, the party did claim to have put up an equal number of LED TV screens in Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal for the three virtual rallies addressed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah this week.
It is also not clear whether the same sets or some of them were transported from one state to another—or if each state unit had mobilised or bought 70,000 LED TV sets for present and future use. The ‘forward looking’ party could be preparing the ground for more virtual rallies during the election campaign in these states. While assembly election is due in Bihar later this year, in West Bengal and Odisha the elections are due next year.
In Bihar the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) had alleged that BJP had spent Rs 144 Crore on the LED TV sets at the rate of Rs 20,000 each. If the party had got its figures right, it would mean that the BJP had bought the sets at wholesale rates. Hired or bought, it would have been a logistical nightmare to transport and deploy the same sets in three states over three consecutive days. And ofcourse a feat of organisingskill.
The challenges and cost of transportation and storage could however be overcome by entrusting each TV set to a party functionary in the area, requiring them to put it up every time the party asked for it.
In any case, BJP leaders were elated at pulling off the virtual rallies. And in particular they seemed impressed with a LED TV placed in a bamboo grove in a Bengal village. The National General Secretary (Organisation)B.L. Santhosh tweeted, “People in remote villages of West Bengal listening to Amit Shah during ‘BJP Samvad’. This is the reach BJP has achieved through relentless pursuit for the last five years. People want better days.”
The party’s IT Cell chief Amit Malviya tweeted, “This is a defining image from Home Minister Amit Shah’s virtual rally in Bengal yesterday. People with modest means in interiors of Bengal watched him live! Just to give a sense of the reach, the live feed on BJP Bengal’s Facebook page alone has been shared approximately 32,000 times.”
While the Home Minister claimed the rallies had nothing to do with politics or elections, he did take pot shots at the opposition in these rallies. While admitting that the Government might have fallen short on some expectations, he belligerently asked what the Opposition had done in the wake of the pandemic. He also attacked the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and declared that she would become a political refugee after the election.
Even as BJP leaders gloated over their virtual feat, comes the news that doctors at the Kasturba Hospital in New Delhi had not received their salary for the past three months. Last month doctors of Hindu Rao Hospital, also run by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation run by the BJP, had complained of non-payment of salary.
The pandemic and the lockdown have affected the revenue of state governments and civic bodies. And while NDMC officials are quoted as saying that the threat of resignation by doctors at this time would not be ‘right’, the Resident Doctors’ Association in a letter claimed that unable to pay their house rent and cost of commuting, they were being forced to borrow money from parents and relatives.
Ironically, the BJP is not starved of funds and the party is not shying away from splurging on LED TV sets and virtual rallies even when hunger, death and disease stalk the country.
Its priorities are clear. Elections are more important than hospitals, doctors or the poor migrants.