Kolkata, A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election rally at the Brigade Parade Ground here, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Thursday ridiculed its turnout, saying the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had used European-made hangars to ensure that no aerial pictures of the crowd could be taken.
“Guess why the BJP used European-made hangars for their rally at the Brigade Parade Ground? That no aerial pictures of the crowd could be taken. Even the trains they chartered ran half empty,” TMC leader in the Rajya Sabha Derek O’Brien told IANS.
Senior Trinamool leader Sovandeb Chattopadhyay was also dismissive of the crowd size. “I have seen many rallies at the Brigade Parade Ground. But none can match the turnouts at the two — one addressed by Indira Gandhi jointly with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Prime Minister of a newly liberated Bangladesh, in 1972, and another addressed by Mamata Banerjee on July 21, 2011, after she became the Chief Minister of West Bengal,” Chattopadhyay, state Power Minister, told IANS.
Chattopadhyay said the size of the crowd at Modi’s rally was nowhere near the two rallies.
He said each of the nine hangars had seating arrangements, along with a substantial number of chairs. “How many people can a hangar accommodate? Sitting arrangements, and provision for chairs reduce the space considerably. So, there is no basis to the BJP leaders’ claim that the attendance was huge,” he said.
Asked whether the TMC had any plans to counter the Modi’s rally, as also the six others he would address during the Lok Sabha campaign in West Bengal, Chattopadhyay said, “Our leader Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to address 100 meetings. Other top leaders of our party would also campaign extensively. We see no reason to go any extra mile to counter the BJP.”
However, the BJP seemed upbeat about its prospects in the Lok Sabha elections following the “success” of the rally. The BJP had finished second in Kolkata North and Kolkata South in 2014, and hopes to go one better this time.
BJP Secretary and party candidate from Kolkata North Rahul Sinha said, “People would not have come in such a large numbers without a reason. This sort of gathering is possible only if the masses have faith in a party. When faith and trust combine into public confidence, then only you can expect such a huge crowd.”
According to Sinha, the crowd indicated the deep inroads the BJP has made in Bengal. “The success of Thursday’s meeting will help us finish our unfinished task — that of winning Bengal. Our dream is Banga bijay (victory in Bengal),” said Sinha.
CPI-M state Secretariat member Manab Mukherjee rubbished the BJP’s claims on the turnout. “Modi has played a joke with Brigade Parade Ground by using hangars to cover it. The attendance was very low. Nobody would believe their cock and bull stories on the attendance,” he said.
State Congress Vice-President Om Prakash Mishra too wasn’t impressed. “The BJP and Modi are all about claims, most of which turn out to be hollow. The party will be rejected by both the people of India as well as Bengal,” he said.