Kolkata, The heart of Kolkata was drowned in a deluge of saffron on Tuesday as thousands of BJP workers took part in party President Amit Shah’s roadshow ahead of the seventh and final phase of the Lok Sabha elections.
Flower petals rained from the rooftops on both sides of the streets while thousands took part in the colourful procession, chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and waving saffron flags as it traversed from the Shahid Minar in central Kolkata to move through the Dharamtala Crossing, Lenin Sarani and Subodh Mallick Square and culminated near Swami Vivekanda’s residence on Simla Street.
Shah stood atop a truck, accompanied by Kolkata North candidate Rahul Sinha, state party president Dilip Ghosh, South Kolkata candidate Chandra Kumar Bose, Union Minister Babul Supriyo and Assam Finance Minister Himanta Viswa Sharma.
Visibly pleased at the crowd’s response, he waved at the people, greeted them with folded hands and showered saffron marigold petals on those on the steet.
Over 100 small and medium pickup trucks, decorated with green and saffron balloons, party banners and cutouts of Modi-Shah and carrying enthusiastic activists, were the vanguard of the rally followed by over 500 male and female dhakis (drummers), dressed in saffron from different parts of Bengal.
“We have brought in 150 Dhakis from Bongaon’s Maslandapur. There are dhakis from other parts of the city as well. Overall there are more than 500 drum players in the roadshow,” said Nirmal Das of Gopal Krishna Dhak training centre from Bongaon.
The road show grew in size with every passing moment, as more and more people joined in and thousands more watched the spectacle from balconies, shops, roadside buildings, and pavements, beckoned by huge cut outs of Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
People wearing Modi masks and unique lotus hats grooved to the tunes of high octane songs played from loudspeakers.
Half-an-hour into the programme, large stretches of the city hub came to a standstill with hindreds participating in the procession, the like of which the city has rarely seen.
Innumerable saffron balloons were released, and the streets on the route were bedecked with petals which included 10 thousand kilos of marigold flowers bought from Bagnan in Howrah district.
BJP leaders and activists looked upbeat.
“If the polls are conducted in a free and fair manner, then we will comfortably win in many seats across Bengal. But the Central force have to play a pivotal role in maintaining peace during polling. In north Kolkata, a large section of people are in favour of BJP. We need to stop Trinamool from rigging the votes,” said Vikram Singh, secretary of BJP’s north Kolkata unit.
Carrying their traditional triangular red flags and playing ‘tasha’ beats, a large number of men and women from the Dalit Matua community followed Shah’s vehicle.
“We are here because we support BJP and Modi ji. He has said, once voted back to power, his government will ensure that all the Hindu refugees in India would get citizenship. We have been struggling for a long time for our rights but the current Trinamool Congress government does not pay any heed to our demands,” said Gauranga Das, adding two buses full of Matuas have come to Shah’s road show.
Another refugee forum — ‘Nikhil Bharat Udbastu Samannay Samiti’ – from Bengal’s Nadia district also took part in the rally.
Nearly 200 members of the forum, many of them youngsters, gathered near Subhodh Mullick Square and raised slogans “We want Modi, we want citizenship”.
The event was more than a mere political programme. The cultural side was hard to miss. Artists were brought from several other states and the districts, who performed song and dance routines, to present the culture of the various states.
Punjab’s bhangra, the tribal dance of Chhattisgar’s Bastar region, Rajasthan folk, and popular dance forms of eastern Indian states like Odisha and Bengal caught the attention of the bystanders while ‘Bauls’ (roving minstrels of Bengal) and classical dancers lent more colour to the road show.
However, the rhythm was broken when a clash broke out between the saffron party activists and members of Trinamool Congress students’ union near Calcutta University building, towards the end of the road show as the two opposing groups attacked each other with stones, baboo sticks and metal rods.
The campus of Vidyasagar college on college street was allegedly vandalised by BJP and ABVP supporters after they were provoked by the students from inside.
Shah accused the police of playing a role of a silent spectator and said he was stopped from going till the residence of Swami Vivekananda as scheduled after the situation centring the road show became tense.