A guard at Dhurwa grounds, the venue for Narendra Modi’s December 29 rally, in Ranchi on Thursday and (above) BJP hoardings lined up near Shaheed Chowk. Pictures by Prashant Mitra and Hardeep Singh
Ranchi police are trying their best not to repeat the mistakes of their Patna counterparts as Dhurwa grounds gear up for BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s Vijay Sankalp Rally on December 29, complete with a model of the Indian Parliament.
It was on the last Sunday of October that Modi’s Patna rally made its hunkar with serial blasts, killing six, injuring over 80 and conclusively proving the role of the fledgling but organised Jharkhand-Bihar terror clusters. It is on the last Sunday of December that Modi will come for a rally at a venue only some 3km from Sithio, the home of at least four accused in the Patna blasts.
So, it is no surprise that police personnel are on tenterhooks. When a labourer was digging a hole at Dhurwa grounds on Thursday to fix a bamboo pole for barricading, an alert jawan of Jharkhand Police, Ram Naresh Singh, rushed to stop him.
“Ruko, ruko. Jo bhi gaddha banana hai woh mere saamne hi khodo (Stop, stop. Whatever holes you need to dig, do it in front of me),” Singh said.
Asked for the reason behind his frantic intervention, Singh said: “It’s a standing order. No one can dig any hole or fix any bamboo pole without our permission.”
A senior Intelligence Bureau officer explained the order. “In Patna, suspected Indian Mujahideen operatives planted at least seven bombs in holes dug to erect barricade poles but left unused and unaccounted for. It is vital to check every hole, nook and corner now,” he said.
On Wednesday evening, two teens, who somehow got their picture clicked with Modi’s stage as the backdrop, were detained by police. The boys were released late night when on questioning it was proved they only wanted to upload the picture on Facebook.
For 24/7 stage security, three havildars and 12 jawans of Rapid Action Police (RAP) have been posted.
Ranchi SSP Bhimsen Tuti visited the rally site on Thursday afternoon to take stock of security arrangements. Two sniffer dogs were also pressed into service.
“The security arrangements may baffle you but they are needed under our stringent code of standard procedures. Each bamboo pole and even its hollow space inside are checked to ensure no explosive material is hidden,” Tuti said.
“By Friday afternoon, the administration is likely to take the grounds under its possession,” the SSP said.
In layman’s language, it means the venue will be sealed. Six officials of elite National Security Guard (NSG) headed by an officer of SP rank will reach Ranchi to coordinate security arrangements for the rally with Jharkhand police and central security agencies. National Investigation Agency (NIA) was in active touch with state police and security agencies.
Four watchtowers, two each in front and rear of the stage, have been put up. Policemen will occupy each tower, armed with binoculars by day and powerful lights by night. Twenty CCTV cameras and six dome cameras will be fixed at strategic locations and 40 entry gates of the rally grounds will have metal detectors.
“The entire rally grounds, flanks, approach roads and the route from Birsa Munda airport will be monitored,” DGP Rajeev Kumar told The Telegraph over phone from New Delhi. “We are planning to lay a security siege,” he added, unwilling to divulge numbers.
Just to understand how thick the security will be, some 700 security personnel will be deployed on the 2km stretch from HEC Hospital More to the rally grounds.
What makes the job of the security personnel more challenging is that they need to coordinate with BJP workers and NaMo supporters, going all out to create a festive look to welcome Modi to Ranchi.
Modi, who has been seen in his rallies with models of the Red Fort to buttress his claim for the prime minister’s position, will see a replica of the Indian Parliament in Ranchi. Artisans and workers are busy creating the facade.
“The design has been made on his (Modi’s) direction,” a senior BJP leader said.
NaMo hoardings and banners have flooded the capital, decking up major thoroughfares as well as most prominent places of the city.
Besides making the BJP workers gloat, this show of visibility has made printers and advertisement agencies very happy.
Rough calculations of various ad agencies suggest flex prints, hoardings, pamphlets and banners have cost the BJP around Rs 1 crore.
Gurcharan Singh of Khalsa Ad, a local company with expertise in flex printing , said they got orders for printing between 40-50 flex hoarding. “Orders ranged between Rs 2 and Rs 2.5 lakh,” he beamed.
The show of saffron money muscle has irked the Congress. Congress state spokesperson Shailesh Sinha, when contacted, said BJP was blatantly misusing money and power.
“The party (BJP) should issue a white paper on where it is getting crores for the Modi rally. We also know many ad hoardings in prominent locations have been occupied illegally,” he said.