If BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s schedule for the entire month is to go by, he will literally live his life in a suitcase. The Gujarat CM is expected to address 24 rallies in February from Passighat in Arunachal Pradesh to Sujanpur in Jammu.
Sidharth Nath Singh, in charge of West Bengal affairs of BJP, told HT the preparations for Modi’s Kolkata rally on February 5 started a month in advance with state office-bearers asking the local units to hold road shows and raise funds for the event. “Between January 30 and February 3, we hired a steamer to ply on Hoogly river with Narendra Modi’s hoardings asking people to join the rally. As a result more than 35% of those who attended the rally were walk-ins,” he said.
After talking to a large section of the BJP leadership, it is evident that Modi’s rallies have become a humongous exercise with most of them witnessing a turnout of more than a lakh people. The party got alerted to huge crowds after the September 15, 2013 Rewari rally in Haryana but it was the October 27 rally at Gandhi Maidan in Patna that turned out to be a game changer with terrorist group Indian Mujahideen targeting the huge gathering with improvised explosive devices.
“After Modi gives a go ahead, the local unit in conjunction with the state in-charge and senior Sangh parivar leaders decide the venue. In Varanasi, we had to change the venue across the Ganga as no ground was big enough to accommodate such a big crowd,” said a senior BJP leader.
After the venue is identified and cleared with Modi’s personal security in consultation with the IB and state CID for threat perception, Modi’s office clears the programme with no more than two speakers addressing the rally after arrival of the Gujarat CM. “Special attention is paid to the public address system as Modi is very particular about being audible to his supporters,” said a BJP leader.
The next step is discussions with senior leaders like Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah on “speaking points” for Modi’s speech. For instance, Modi took up the point of Bihar and West Bengal not utilising their Haj quota due to very low income levels of Muslims in these states at the behest of party leader Shahnawaz Hussain. However, it is Modi who finally decides on what to talk about as was evident during the Patna rally when he attacked Bihar CM Nitish Kumar despite advice of other state leaders to soft pedal the issue.
“We hire trains, buses and tractors to bring the supporters to the rally. The state unit takes care of the refreshment and their welfare. The SIS private security group is hired to provide protection apart from the state police with medical facilities available at the venue,” said a BJP leader.
Modi, who is very particular about social media, wants his IT cell in-charge Hiren Joshi to give him continuous feedbacks about what his supporters like him talk about. He also insists on knowing about the feedback of his rallies.