The much-touted publicity vans of the Akali government, meant to showcase its “successful” nine-year rule in the state, attracted just 40-odd people in a flop first day first show on Friday at this village.
Most villagers were disinterested in hearing about the policies and developmental works of the government. Those who turn up were Akali supporters mostly, gathered by the party’s youth and women’s wings. The movie ‘Chaar Shahibzade’ played on an LED screen aboard the van was cut short, further dampening the enthusiasm of the children in the small audience.
The show started at 6.20pm, for an assembly of just 25. A series of government advertisements interrupted the movie. The first campaign featured former Indian hockey captain Rajpal Singh, saying he owed his achievements to the Punjab government. The adverts described insurance schemes for farmers, free bicycles for girl student, and free books and uniform for schoolchildren. In one segment, a villager was telling another if he chose the Aam Aadmi Party, the state would be deprived of water, as AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal would give it to the other states.
Half an hour into the movie, the audience swelled to 41 — 16 women, 12 children, five senior citizens, and just eight youth. Observing that the movie was truncated, the children began to leave. “I have seen this movie already. Scenes have been deleted in this show. Moreover, the frequent advertisements are disturbing. I’d rather play,” said Sukhwinder Singh (12), as he walked off.
The district administration officials kept hoping the number would increase. When asked about the woman at the gathering, SAD Ludhiana rural women’s wing district president Daljiot Kaur Pawa agreed that these were Akali supporters. “But we have called other villagers, too,” she said.
Cost to exchequer
The publicity show costs the state exchequer more than Rs 20,000 a day, yet many villagers are still unaware why the van is around. A big group of devotees passed by the van on way to the opposite gurdwara. Asked why she wasn’t in the audience, devotee Gurpreet Kaur (22), said she was not aware. A woman in the neighbourhood where the van was stationed had said she had “no faith in any government”. “We are poor and will remain so, whichever party comes to power. We have no interest in watching the government propaganda,” she said.