Eleven special trains, 6,000 buses, 20,000 SUVs, a gizmo-laden stage with a 30-feet dynamic screen as background, scores of LED screens on the ground and an undefined amount of loose change – nothing is being spared to make Narendra Modi’s “Hunkar rally” a roaring Sunday show in Nitishland.
Although Bihar is not among the states going to the polls in November, the BJP prime ministerial candidate is making a detour to prove a point or two, as it’s the first BJP rally since its divorce with the JD (U). The split was triggered by Modi’s elevation as head of the BJP election campaign committee.
But more than political niggling, the money being spent on the show – Rs. 10 crore, according to a state intelligence official -- has raised quite a few eyebrows.
JD (U) general secretary KC Tyagi said on Friday that he had asked the IT authorities to keep an eye on the expenditure. Bihar BJP chief Mangal Pandey responded: “The income tax authorities are welcome.”
Asked where the money is coming from, Vinay Kumar Singh, BJP MLA and chief organiser of the rally, said it would be raised through contributory coupons of R50 to Rs. 1,000 released through the party’s district presidents, 12 Lok Sabha MPs and 91 MLAs.
But on how much the coupons might fetch, Singh sounded defensive. “I’ll get back to you as soon as I have the details,” he promised, but never got back.
Bihar transport federation president Uday Shankar Prasad Singh estimated the cost of hiring 6,000 buses at Rs. 3 crore, while hiring 20,000 SUVs could cost Rs. 4 crore. “But such plain vanilla calculation can be misleading as vehicles are often hired out to political parties at highly concessional rates,” he said.
East Central Railway Zone (Hajipur) chief public relations manager Amitabh Prabhakar said the average cost of hiring a special train with 18 compartments was Rs. 8.5 lakh. So, having 11 trains will cost about Rs. 93.50 lakh.
But no cost estimate for the jazzy stage could be obtained as an executive of the company that will manage the event refused to answer any question.