PM Modi’s Patna rally draws lukewarm response; NDA leaders panic about low turnout

Many seasoned political pundits were unable to make out why PM Modi’s Patna rally drew such a lukewarm response even though it was organised just 5 days after the airstrike

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Soroor Ahmed

Even many seasoned political pundits of Bihar are unable to make out why Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s March 3 Patna rally drew such a lukewarm response. After all nobody, even the bitterest political rivals, ever challenged his capability to attract a crowd.

Incidentally, the rally was organised just five days after the air strike inside Pakistan and all the NDA leaders were claiming that the turnout would be historic.

Exactly five years back on the same date Modi, as the chief minister of Gujarat, launched his election campaign in Muzaffarpur. This northern Bihar town is much smaller than Patna yet there was a huge turnout. It is another thing that this town is now in the news more for it’s involvement in the shelter home scam involving 34 minor girls.

One political observer even went on to equate the March 3 Sankalp Rally to the one organized by the Communist Party of India sometime back. Needless to suggest the CPI is hardly a force and does not have a single MLA or MP from the state.

Unlike Modi’s rallies in 2014 and 2015, during the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, this time the main ruling party of the state, the Janata Dal United, is an important constituent of the National Democratic Alliance.

If, for argument sake, one accepts that the state government machinery was not involved in making this Sankalp Rally of the NDA a big success, it is a fact that, unlike in the past, there was no opposition to it too.

“His speeches are too repetitive and there is nothing much left for the people to know from him. After all you can not accuse the political opponents on the issue of national security. No government in the past has compromised the issue,” said Manoj Chaurasia, a political commentator.

He said that there was utter confusion within the Janata Dal United with its vice president Prashant Kishor quoted in the social media as saying that he is opposed to war. It could not be immeduately ascertained whether Kishor was present on the occasion or not.

The poor turnout has started bothering the NDA leaders who were making tall claims about it. Local television channels, for one reason or the other, avoided showing the crowd as that would have embarrassed the ruling NDA in Bihar.

Another analyst Abdul Qadir attributed it to the complacency on the part of the BJP and its allies. Besides, the fatigue factor too might have worked, as the people are least interested in listening to the same speeches every now and then.

Some NDA workers were heard blaming the authority for the low turnout in the rally. “The security check up was so strong that we could not even take our party’s flag inside. This deterred many of us from entering Gandhi Maidan,” said NDA workers in response to the low turnout.

It needs to be reminded that serial blasts rocked Patna when Modi, then not the PM, addressed Hunkar Rally way back on October 27, 2013. About half a dozen people lost their lives.

But then Modi had addressed several public meetings––if not any rally––at this very venue. The most prominent one was on January 4, 2017 on the occasion of the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh.

He is a frequent visitor and no Prime Minister had addressed so many meetings in Bihar in the last five years.

During the 2015 Assembly election he addressed as many as 31 election rallies all over Bihar. The security was strict in all these places yet the turnout was good. This had happened even when the BJP performed badly in that election.

The truth, according to many Bihar watchers is that, Modi has over exposed himself. In Patna alone he had addressed so many meetings in the last couple of years that there is nothing left for the people, even his admirers, to listen to.

Besides, the birth anniversary of the last Sikh Guru, he had in the last several months addressed functions at the Patna University, Patna High Court, visited newly built Bihar Museum.

As all these places, including Patna’s Gandhi Maidan are situated in the heart of the city all routes to the airport are sanitized well before his visit.

“It is not that VVIPs have not visited Patna in the past. But never so frequently had any PM came here so frequently. All these trips cause a lot of hardship to the people,” commented a journalist wishing not to be quoted.

People’s difficulty can be understood by the fact that the latest Sankalp Rally came just a day after the commencement of CBSE Class-X and XII examination on March 2.

As the city was gearing up for the VVIPs visit examinees faced a lot of hardship in reaching the exam centres or while returning to home.

The problem with Patna is that most of the educational institutions, hospitals, business centres etc are situated either on Bailey Road or Ashok Rajpath. Gandhi Maidan is located in the middle. The road to airport is also linked to Bailey Road. Even those going to catch trains at Patna, Danapur and Patliputra railway stations and Rajendra Nagar railway stations––the four terminals––have to one way or the other pass through the Bailey Road.

In the past the BJP used to mobilize a lot of supporters from Patna proper. But this time there was a general indifference towards the rally. It was the Janata Dal United and Lok Janshakti Party workers who managed to bring some of their supporters from the far off places.

So far the security is concerned as many as 20 SP rank officers were deployed. Reports suggest that 12,000 police personnel were brought to duty for the security reason.

Students of government schools were badly affected. Classes remained suspended for almost entire month of February because of Classes X and XII Bihar Board exams. After that policemen brought from various places were put up in these very schools. Now with the elections round the corner classes are likely to be affected for some more days.

The sad aspect is that this has become a regular phenomenon in Patna in the last five years, was how a parent commented.

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