May 6- Modiji’s rally in Gaurigunj- a memorable experience
As modiji’s rally was scheduled for May 6 in Amethi area, we decided to attend it rather than go campaigning as most villagers would be flocking to the rally. Time for rally was set for 3:00 PM and we knew that it would be past 4:00 PM before Modiji arrived.
We left from Kalyan Pur at 10:30 via Amethi as we had to buy train tickets for return to Varanasi. After the near death experience of driving long distances on the highways and byways of Varanasi to Amethi, we refused to go back by car and opted for the train instead. It was going to be a middle of the night train and reservation was not guaranteed. We bought the tickets any way for 3 AC train with our names on the waiting list. Traffic management in Amethi is very poor and no one follows any rule of the road so there were unnecessary and irritating long delays everywhere. There were virtual gridlocks in front of the cops, who stood by disinterested. Perhaps, they had imbibed attributes of a ‘sthitaprajna’ a bit too much!
Any way, finally we were on our way to Gaurigunj, which was about 10 miles northwest of Amethi. It took us 45 minutes because of bad roads. Our driver was expert at maneuvering landmines like potholes but that also meant that very often he came face to face, in a head-on like situation with the oncoming traffic. We saw scores of people walking to the venue, rickshaws, trucks and buses festooned with NaMo insignia; it was a festive atmosphere. We reached the venue at 1:45 PM, a good 75 minutes before the start time but there were already thousands of people. We were able to find seats on the side of the stage, in unreserved area in the 11th row from where one could clearly see the speaker as well as the giant screen. This was after standing for almost an hour.
Gajendrasingh Solanki, a well-known poet and an office-bearer of cultural wing of BJP was emceeing the event. He regaled the audience with his witty, full of barbs poetry castigating Congress. There were several speakers, mostly local and state level leaders, those who were past their prime in the political arena as well the new aspirants. Some were very good, others looked like a deer caught in the headlight of a car. In any case people were not paying attention; they were looking at a TV camera mounted on a crane and also at scores of reporters from every TV channel. Some were scanning the sky to see if they would be the first to spot Narendrabhai’s helicopter.
People kept pouring in. It was a God sent gift for hawkers and vendors. Heat was intense, around 110 degrees F. Water pouches, cool cucumber (literarily), sugarcane juice, fruits, soft drinks, snacks, were being hawked at inflated price and people were snapping them up like hot cake. Suddenly tons of youth invaded our area. Slowly they pushed their way to the front, dethroned those sitting in first row of chairs and started flinging chairs in the air to make room for them to stand. It was chaos for a while. Surprising there were no injuries but some chairs were broken. Some of these guys stood up on the chair, completely blocking view all those who were sitting. No amount of request or reasoning would work with them; they were simply there to have “darshan” of their God, NaMo. By the time Smruti Iraniji arrived at 4:00 PM, crowd had swelled to over 100,000. We had been sitting/standing in the scorching sun now for more than two hours. It was announced from the stage that there was 18-mile backup of traffic and vehicles were struggling to reach the rally. As the time drew closer for Modiji’s arrival, a slow hum that grew into a roar started from the audience. There were incessant chants of Modi, Modi and its variations. People would look up the sky, someone would mention that he had seen the helicopter and the crowd would be on its feet and in frenzy. One would think that Bhagwan Ramachandra himself was arriving in Pushpak viman! Ultimately just around 4:45 PM, a dot appeared in the sky, grew within moments to a full fledged helicopter, was almost in front of us, turned and landed just behind the stage. As Modiji came up on the stage, it was as if all hell broke loose; there was near pandemonium everywhere and for a while it looked like people would be crushed in the stampede. Eventually repeated request from the stage to maintain calm and dignity and security force’s quick action restored some semblance of order.
Smrutiji spoke first. She is a formidable orator and spoke well outlining her vision for Amethi. We could not see her as there were all these unruly youth standing on the chairs. She spoke for 20 minutes or so. By now crowd was estimated at 150,000. When Modiji rose to speak there was deafening slogan shouting. No one, including us could remain silent, such was the overpowering emotion. Modiji started off gently and as the time passed, he stepped up his attack on the misdeeds of the Gandhi family. He is so good at weaving his thoughts together that one would not know when he switches gears or subject. By now those rabble-rousers were gone. I surmised that they had no interest in Modiji’s speech (and probably his vision); they wanted to see him live from the close quarters, had their wish fulfilled and had left. So we were able to take their place, not standing on the chair but standing almost near the first row and could see Modiji clearly. Modiji heaped praises on Smrutiji. He tore into Priyanka Gandhi’s snide remark “Who is she (Smrutiji)?” He said, “I will tell you Priyankaji, who she is. She is my younger sister. I had given her the most underdeveloped district in Gujarat to work on and she has done such a wonderful job that I have sent her to Amethi so that people of Amethi can have development that your brother has neglected all these years.” He was so profuse in the praise of Smrutiji that she was seen crying and wiping tears. By now, Modiji had the crowd literarily eating out of his hands. He talked about all round development of Amethi that he has in mind; he talked about the woes of the farmers. It was clear that he knew all the local issues. As his speech neared the end, he talked about “politics of anger”, a phrase hurled at him by Rahul. He asked the audience I have a locked box (Hindi word: Pitera, Gujarati- Patara), should I open it for you? He asked this more than once and crowed roared in approval. Then he set out to list politics of anger starting with Rajeev Gandhi and ending with Rahul Gandhi. (1) Rajeev Gandhi who held just a party position got angry and had insulted publically the then C. M. of Andhra Pradesh who had come to receive him at the airport, driving him to tears. (2) Sonia Gandhi had elected president of Congress, Sitaram Kesari, a man in his eighties, who belonged to backward caste physically lifted from his office and then dumped out in the street so she could occupy Congress President’s chair. (3) When P. V. Nursing Rao, former Congress Prime Minister of Bharat died, Sonia Gandhi did not give permission to keep his body at the Congress office for people to pay homage (because after Lal Bahadur Shashtri, he was the first non-Nehru-Gandhi Congress PM) and she did not allow to have him cremated where all former PMs were, so that no memorial of him could be built later. (4) Rahul Gandhi, who talks about politics of anger, publically tore apart an ordinance passed by his own party’s government and insulted the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, who was traveling abroad.
With this stinging chrgesheet, he ended his address. It is to Narendra Modi’s credit that he has exposed the so-called Gandhi family ( we all know how Khan became Gandhi for political convenience and hoodwinking the nation) like no one else has, and he has taken the fight to their home ground.
We returned exhausted by the heat but exhilarated by the experience. Our excitement had not ended yet. That night we were waiting for the train to Varanasi at Amethi railway station. We were sitting next to a young man. As I started talking, I found out that the guy was a Youth Congress worker from Balia. He told me that he was in Amethi for two weeks to do survey for Rahul Gandhi. When I asked him about what he found, he bitterly said that people were asking questions about lack of basic amenities for which he and others had no answer. He said that the survey was an exercise in futility. He was a graduate without job. He surprised me when he said that his name was the electoral roll at two places, in Balia and in Bihar, across the boarder and that he intended to vote for BJP. He said only Modi could change the situation. Such was the Modi wave!
Last installment of our excitement was the train journey. The train arrived at 1:00 AM, half an hour late. We did not know where the 3AC coaches would come on the platform; we saw them but since the train stopped hardly for two minutes, we had to get into a non-ac compartment and stand in the vestibule. It was stuffy and hot. Someone told us that the train would stop for five minutes at Pratapgadh station (about half an hour away) where we could change to 3AC coach. As soon as train stopped at Pratapgadh, we got down with our luggage and literarily ran to find 3AC coaches. There were many but we did not see the train conductor who could verify if we had moved from the waiting list to confirmed reservation. So again, as the train started, we entered nearest 3AC compartment. We sat in the walkway/aisle on our bags and kept dozing off. Of course, we had to get up a number of times when passengers had to pass by to got to the bathroom. No one came to check our tickets and we were glad when the train arrived at Varanasi at 5:30 AM. We were on the road for campaigning by 9:00 AM but that is the story for another day.