A hoarding in Bhopal announcing Wednesday’s meeting in the city
Bhopal, Sept. 23: With Narendra Modi as chief guest, the BJP in Madhya Pradesh has turned brand-conscious.
For the lunch it will serve to seven lakh participants at the karyakarta mahakumbh (workers’ meet) in Bhopal on Wednesday, the party unit is buying only “branded and packaged” ingredients.
State BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai said: “Since it is the world’s largest political gathering, we wish to maintain quality and consistency in food. Cooking and serving food to seven lakh participants is a mammoth task involving over 1,000 teams of cooks. Therefore, we made a list of top of the line branded packaged items for atta, rice, oil, etc., to maintain quality control.”
The result: each plate of puri, chhole, vegetable pulao, achar (pickle) and halwa will cost Rs 50, according to Bajpai’s estimate, against the Rs 30 budgeted earlier.
The BJP, which is holding the meeting to mark the conclusion of the 50-day “Jan Ashirwad Yatra” undertaken by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ahead of the November Assembly elections, is also making a political point with the meal — it will have no onions and no separate vegetable dish. The pulao will have carrots and beans, though.
Anil Madhav Dave, BJP Rajya Sabha MP and chief organiser of the meet, said: “Onion and vegetable prices have skyrocketed and are beyond the reach of the aam aadmi. Therefore, we have decided not to use onion in food. This way, we intend to the keep cost of our meal down and protest against the rise of onion and vegetable prices.”
Dave denied charging Rs 5 as participation or registration fee. “There are many, many persons voluntarily contributing to tide over expenses but there is no compulsion,” he said.
State BJP chief Narender Singh Tomar also denied media reports that Muslim participants have been asked to wear skull-caps or burqas. “We are against any stereotype or dress code,” he said.
Modi’s presence in Bhopal is generating a lot of interest in the BJP-ruled state. Many state ministers and party functionaries are keen to see the “body language” between Modi and Chouhan and hear what they have to say about each other.
Former chief minister and state urban development minister Babulal Gaur yesterday created a flutter when he was heard giving an unusual meaning to the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya”.
Gaur said when BJP workers politically chant this mantra, “Namah” implies Modi but they do not relate “Shiv” with Chouhan. “Modi-ji is prime ministerial candidate while Chouhan is a chief minister,” he said, while informally discussing preparations for Wednesday’s meeting with a section of the media.
The Chouhan camp, however, is keen to project him as someone who mixes development, BJP ideology and secularism. According to them, there is no personality clash between the Gujarat chief minister and his Madhya Pradesh counterpart. In their view, Chouhan has a different style of functioning from Modi, which gives the “impression” as if the two leaders do not get along.
The entire city of Bhopal is packed with huge cutouts and hoardings that show Chouhan and Modi facing each other. The catch-line for the November Assembly polls says: “Phir BJP, Phir Shivraj.”