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Fear strikes UP BJP: what if PM Modi's rallies draw sparse crowds?

Atul Chandra | Updated on: 13 December 2016, 18:22 IST

It's deja vu for the Bharatiya Janata Party - and not in a good way.

Just like last year's Assembly election campaign in Bihar, the party is haunted by fears that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rallies during the Parivartan Yatra in Uttar Pradesh will not be well-attended.

The helicopter carrying the PM could not land for a planned rally in Bahraich on 11 December, and the reason given was bad weather. But the BJP's state president Keshav Prasad Maurya saw a conspiracy behind Modi's failed trip.

A third reason, which no one in the BJP was willing to admit to, were the empty chairs at the Bahraich venue, which led the PM to address the crowd via mobile phone, giving him an opportunity to emphasise on the importance of technology.

Later this month, on the 24th, the Prime Minister was set to address a grand rally in Lucknow to mark the culmination of its four Parivartan Yatras. But given the apprehensions surrounding the lack of a sufficient crowd, the party now intends to hold another rally for him to address, some time in January.

Various versions

BJP national vice-president Dinesh Sharma said: "The date was changed as the PM has other important engagements in Delhi."

He added: "Parivartan Yatra ka samaapan ab anya netaaon dwaaraa hoga (the culmination of the Parivartan Yatra will now be addressed by other leaders)."

Sharma also pointed out that the PM was scheduled to address a rally in Kanpur on 19 December, and that he had been assigning two days a month to Uttar Pradesh, where elections are right around the corner.

However, Sharma's version was at variance with what party spokesperson Hriday Narain Dixit told this reporter.

"The proposed dates for the Prime Minister's rally were January 4 and 5 ," said Dixit, while giving another explanation for the cancellation of December 24 rally. "The earlier rallies addressed by the PM and other leaders had people from only the districts neighbouring the venue. Since the PM would be addressing the last rally here, it was decided that it should draw a crowd from across the state."

Instead, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is set to hold a roadshow in Lucknow - his Parliamentary constituency - preceding the rally.

Sources within the BJP said that just before the culmination rally, local units would be busy with other yatras in the Avadh region, and may not be in a position to collect a large crowd for Modi's rally. A Rajnath roadshow, therefore, would 'prepare the ground' for the PM's rally.

Whenever Modi's Lucknow rally does take place, the party is pulling out all stops to ensure a sizeable crowd - it has asked all its booth level workers to be present.

The four parivartan yatras were meant to cover every Assembly constituency, with the party's top leaders addressing meetings at select places.

Another unofficial reason for changing the date of the PM's rally was that with election dates not yet announced, the impact would have been lost on people.

The Bahraich 'conspiracy'

As far as the situation in Bahraich is concerned, Maurya was not ready to blame the weather gods for spoiling the show.

He said it was a conspiracy and blamed the Samajwadi Party government in the state and the administration for not extending the desired assistance to help the chopper land. "We will get the issue investigated," Maurya reportedly said.

Dikshit said he was not aware of this statement, and would have to check its veracity. Maurya is currently in Rajasthan, attending a wedding in a party leader's family.

A Samajwadi Party spokesman, meanwhile, denied any foul play. "After all, the helicopter carrying the Prime Minister was allowed to take off. If the government had any mal-intent, the helicopter would not have been allowed to fly from Lucknow," he said.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 13 December 2016, 18:22 IST