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Advani meet scrapped

Cooch Behar, April 6: L.K. Advani would not visit Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri tomorrow, dealing a blow to the campaign of the BJP.

Advani was scheduled to fly in from Delhi in a private plane and land here around noon tomorrow. He was scheduled to address a rally at the Ras Mela grounds and then proceed to Mainaguri in Jalpaiguri to address another rally.

But party sources in Delhi said the senior BJP leader would be preoccupied.

BJP state vice-president Pratap Banerjee said tonight that Advani’s public rallies in two places of north Bengal tomorrow “had been cancelled following instruction from our Delhi leadership”.

“Our Delhi leaders entrusted with overseeing Advaniji's programme informed us that he won't be able to come because of his preoccupations in Delhi,” he said.

The BJP’s Cooch Behar district secretary, Nikhil Dey, said Advani’s meeting was cancelled at the last moment.

“Around 11.30am today, when I and other leaders were at the Ras Mela grounds discussing security arrangements with senior police officers, our state vice-president, Pratap Banerjee, called me up to inform that Advaniji’s meeting had been cancelled as the veteran leader’s health did not permit him to make the trip. We had already started constructing a stage and now it has to be dismantled,” Dey said.

The BJP Cooch Behar candidate Hemchandra Barman, who was sitting dejected at the BJP party office, was driven to tears. “The Narendra Modi wind that had gripped the country is also blowing in Cooch Behar. I was among the thousands who were looking forward to listen to our veteran leader speak. I come from a simple farming family and I am honoured that my party has given me a ticket to contest in the general elections. I was moved that a leader of the stature of L.K. Advani would be canvassing for votes for me. This morning, when I was told that he would not be coming I could not hold back the tears. But I am confident that I will win from Cooch Behar,” he said.

The BJP Jalpaiguri candidate is Satyalal Sarkar.

Sources in the district BJP said about Rs 6 lakh had been spent in setting up the stage and hiring the sound equipment for the meeting scheduled for tomorrow. “The budget for setting up the stage, security barriers and the sound equipment for the meeting at the Ras Mela grounds was budgeted at Rs 6 lakh. We are talking to the decorators as the equipment will not be needed,” a party source said.

A decorator, who did not want to be named, said he would face losses. “Last month, we had constructed a pandal… for Mamata’s convention that was also cancelled. We will face losses as we do not get paid in full if a meeting is cancelled.”

Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri vote on April 17