| Passers-by watch Narendra Modi on an LED screen fitted on a NaMo rath near Biscomaun Bhavan on Friday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
The BJP’s innovative poll campaign chariots are at times acting as speed breakers, taking the pace off the already slow city traffic.
The chariots — christened NaMo raths — use audio-visual means, including big LED screens, to campaign for the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. They go around the city playing video clips of his speeches.
Around 250 such raths have descended on the city streets much to the chagrin of commuters and pedestrians. They stand at a place for around 30-45 minutes beaming Modi’s speeches and invariably every second motorist or passer-by tends to stop to watch Modi.
Patna traffic superintendent of police Rajiv Mishra, however, claimed that no permission had been taken for plying the raths. “Permission has to be sought from the traffic police for holding any road show, rally or any other event that obstructs traffic. The same rule applies to the NaMo raths. We would ask the Election Commission regarding clearance given to these chariots,” said Mishra, confirming that he had not received any complaint against the raths so far.
Experts claimed that these raths qualify to be treated as objects distracting the traffic on thoroughfares. “Under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), congregation of five or more than five is not allowed when the Election Commission’s model code of conduct is in effect. The panel must have taken this issue into consideration while giving consent to the NaMo raths. Apart from the legal provision for holding elections, traffic on the streets should not be obstructed,” said Wing Commander (retired) Narendra Kumar, honorary secretary, Automobile Dealers’ Association of Bihar.
Narendra added: “No object should be placed in front of the eyesight of the driver or motorist, which could distract him/her. I believe this rationale is being overlooked in the case of NaMo raths. At the same time, the driver should also be focused enough as to not lose attention. The chariots do not stop on the middle of streets; rather they are parked on roadside. Hence, there is no direct obstruction to traffic even though it could lead to a bit of a chaos.”
BJP state president Mangal Pandey said: “We have given instructions to the party workers not to park the raths in areas having a high vehicular movement or in any manner that could cause obstruction to traffic. We have not heard of any complaint from anywhere regarding traffic congestion owing to these chariots,” said Pandey.