May 8, 2014 Dharana and Modiji at BJP election office in Varanasi
This was a memorable day. The day before District Magistrate (DM) had refused to give permission for Narendra Modi’s public meeting in Beniyabag, Varanasi, citing security concern (it is a different matter that two days later, same administration allowed Rahul Gandhi’s road show, though he has higher level of security!) Not one to take it lying down and known for turning every adversity in to an opportunity (starting with Maut Ka Sodagar epitaph in 2007 Gujarat election), Narendrabhai canceled all other programs (Ganga Aarati and a meet with intellectuals) except one rally in Rohaniya. This itself became a rallying point for Modi aficionados, who number in hundreds of thousands here in Varanasi. Modiji converted this into an opportunity to have an unannounced, unofficial roadshow- more about it later.
Also it was announced that Amit Shah, Arun Jaitley, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and other leaders would sit on a Dharana in Lanka, a famous area in front of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) on 8th morning. Our team under leadership of Ramesh Shah (Houston) decided to halt campaigning and join Dharana to protest prejudiced and politically motivated decision of the EC. Our first stop was a busy road where we distributed NaMo for PM caps to people passing by. Then we proceeded to BHU campus. This is a huge campus with a big public hospital. Pandit Madanmohan Malaviyaji’s statue graces the gates of the campus. We reached there just before 10:00 AM. BJP leaders were expected at 11:00. There was a big crowd chanting slogans against the election commission and the DM. Trucks with satellite dishes were parked on both sides of the road. All major channels- Aaj Tak, India Times, NDTV, ETV, TV9, etc. were present as were a number of smaller and local channels. Umpteen reporters holding microphone in had with cameraman in tow were working the crowd to get sound bytes. Burkha Dutt, Rahul Kanwal and Anurag Kashyap were moving around. I saw and heard Anurag Kashyap spewing his anti-BJP, anti-Modi venom as his cameraman was recording him. He looked like an angry, frustrated man. A vein on his neck was literally throbbing and I though the guy was going to have a coronary. I had vicarious pleasure knowing that these scoundrels’ days were numbered now. Within an hour crowd was of unmanageable proportion. Police had not stopped or diverted traffic because Dharana is a public right and does not require police permission. Since no permission is sought, there is no legal need to stop the traffic. Hapless people on two wheelers and in cars were struggling to pass through human sea. Air was charged with Modi, Modi chants. Some local leaders were already sitting in the middle of the road for Dharana. Heat was so intense that it felt someone had put hot wires around our bodies. We were constantly downing cold water bottles but that gave only temporary respite. W waited till 12:30 Pm but Jaitleyji and company had not arrived yet. We decided that we were better off going to BJP election office and help with office work there. This we spent two and a half hour in the frenzied environment.
We had come to know that Modiji was going to come to the election office to do Ganga Pujan straight from his meeting at Rohaniya. I went to a cybercafé to get some work done as there was no Internet/Wi-Fi at the guesthouse where we had stayed (across from BJP election office in Rathyatra in Sigra area.) When I reached the BJP office gates at 5:30 PM, it was a virtual fortress, surrounded by CRP, RAF, police, etc. No one without an approved pass was allowed inside. They had issued passes to local workers, which was quite understandable. Inside also there were people in the compound who were not allowed to go inside the building. There were people in the building on upper floors who were not allowed to come down. Our friend, Ramesh Shah, who was helping with the office work was inside but rest of us were outside. I attempted to reason with the senior volunteer outside and after some persuasion, he allowed me to go inside the compound making it clear that I would not be able to go further, which was OK by me. With me was Meena Shah, a volunteer from Houston and Dr. Anjila Gupta, a professor from Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi who had taken one month off to work on campaign in Varanasi. All three of us joined 60 or so people in the large compound. It was a hot day and all we had was water at normal temperature. We kept standing, sometimes finding a stoop to sit on. Modiji was expected around 6:00 PM. But wait was without an end. I did feel drawn out because morning Dharana and now standing on feet in the depressing heat had taken its toll but there was no question of backing out now. There were people in balconies of the building. The office is on the ground floor and this brand new building has 10 floors. We saw Laxmikant Bajpayee, president of BJP-UP, sitting outside. We also saw former CM, Kalyan Singh’s son and many other dignitaries. Modiji had arrived in Lanka (BHU) from Rohaniya by helicopter and from there he was coming in an SUV. He couldn’t stand in the vehicle as it would be against election law (that would be considered an official road show and would need permission, so he was greeting people on the side of the roads with folded hands. Crowd was so intense on his route that it took him five hours to cover a distant of 4 KM (2.5 miles)! Finally his car entered the gates at 9:30 PM. I had waited exactly four hours to have a glimpse of him.
As soon as he alighted from the flower bedecked SUV, security threw a cordon around him yet the crowed jostled to be near him. People almost broke the cordon and Modiji had hard time to walk barely 50 steps to heavily guarded front doors. I snapped some photos with iPad but it was impossible to get a clear shot. All you could hear was Modi, Modi, Modi and nothing else. He was hardly inside for 10 minutes where he performed Puja of Gangaji water that was specially brought there; Pandit Chhannuram, who had accompanied when he filed his nomination officiated for the Puja. Anjilabahen asked me if she could get one of the flower “malas” from Modiji’s vehicle. I was not too sure but asked one of the commandos. He OK’ed it so I picked up one mala from the bonnet of SUV and gave it to Anjinibahen, keeping one flower for myself. Such is the craze and Bhakti for Modiji, cutting against all barriers of age, position, social status, etc.
Very soon Modiji came out; this time the security was better prepared and whisked him into his car and sped off in no time. Within moments it was all over.
Modiji turned the rejection by the DM into an opportunity to attract more people than what a public meeting would have achieved. No wonder, all dirty tricks of Congress have failed.
This was an exciting, thrilling and exhausting day for all of us.