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It has become the rallying cry of elections 2014 — ‘my rally’s bigger than your rally’. The latest leaders to rally the troops are Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party chief and Narendra Modi, the BJP prime ministerial candidate. The rally sites in Uttar Pradesh seemed to have been carpet bombed by human beings, up to half a million if figures given out by the parties are to be believed. At the risk of decapitation by the faithful, we wonder if these gigantic numbers are really authentic.
Could it just be that hovering camera shots make a crowd of say 50,000 look like 10 times that figure? After all, the dharna by AAP in Delhi drew smallish crowds in the hundreds, but if you were watching television, it would seem as though half of Delhi were on the streets fondly watching chief minister Arvind Kejriwal sleeping under his flowered quilt.
Then we come to the question, are the people at the rallies drawn by an overwhelming love for the leader. Of could it be that when you live in the back of beyond, a rally means a nice jolly and a jaunt for a day when people get to take in some of the sights around the venue and even get a bit in cash and kind for their time? But no sooner is a rally announced than the spinmeisters go into overdrive estimating the size of the rally. At least a million, one will say. Hah, the other will scoff, we are looking at double that amount. In the end, it will be a more realistic lakh or two. If you are tech savvy, you could put up reflectors behind the stage and make the crowd look even bigger.
And, finally, the all important question. Does a mammoth rally mean a mammoth number of votes? And here is where the crafty Indian voter gets the better of the neta. For he will gladly accept the handouts if any, cheer loudly at the rally and then go home and vote for whoever he likes, not necessarily the candidate he publicly rooted for. And the neta in question is left wondering where on earth all those people rallying around him went.