Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said Narendra Modi and other leaders went ahead with Sunday’s Patna rally — in spite of Gujarat police’s assessment it was unsafe after several explosions — to avoid panic and stampede.
“We decided that to discontinue the rally would be to encourage the terrorists and would definitely result in a riot, panic and stampede. We, therefore, decided to take a conscious risk of going to the dais and continue the rally,” he said, recounting the manner in which the BJP succeeded in calming tension at the venue.
Jaitley said, “We decided that we would shorten the duration of the rally in case there were more bombs. The Gujarat police officers began to prepare an evacuation plan behind the stage for the leaders.”
He recalled “two Gujarat police officers told me that it was not safe to continue the rally in view of the inadequate security measures.” They told him that the advance security liaison (ASL) drill, which was mandatory for a visiting chief minister, had not been adequately carried out.
“There were no anti-sabotage checks or a full dress rehearsal undertaken in the required manner. These officers informed me that blasts around and inside of the venue showed it was not safe for Modi to leave the airport and reach the rally.”
The leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said, “a responsible BJP state leader appealed to the crowds not to blast crackers. That built up the confidence level of the crowd. Soon, some of those who left the rally (after the blasts) came back. We were back to addressing a jam-packed maidan. Our good fortune was that no further blasts took place.”
Jaitley said he asked a Bihar officer whether the rally was safe or not. “He also asked her if there was any evacuation plan ready. She replied that she would speak to her superior, the SSP who was not to be seen. Thereafter, no Bihar police officer spoke to us. We were left to decide on our own.” Disregarding his securitymen’s advice, Modi left the airport for the venue of the rally.