The Matigara grounds where Modi is expected to hold his rally on Thursday. Picture by Kundan Yolmo
Siliguri, April 9: The state administration told the BJP Bengal leadership “at the last moment” that the field where Narendra Modi’s chopper was to land here tomorrow was unsuitable because of the soft soil, said party state president Rahul Sinha today.
Late tonight, the PWD was busy building another helipad on firmer land near the rally venue in Matigara, Siliguri.
A BJP state leader later said the leadership had been informed about the development and there was a chance that Modi, the party’s prime ministerial face, would drive from Bagdogra airport to Matigara, a distance that can be covered in 20 minutes. He, however, said that as of now, the party would stick to its chopper plan.
The Bengal BJP accused the state administration of “deliberate non co-operation”.
The ground at Matigara, Panchkelguri Math, is 15km from Bagdogra, where Modi would board a 20-seater chopper to reach the venue. He is scheduled to land in Bagdogra around 10am .
This morning, the Siliguri police commissioner and PWD engineers went to inspect the rally venue. They told BJP leaders there that a 20-tonne chopper could not land on such soft ground — the area is paddy land — as the wheels of the chopper might sink into the soil.
“At the last moment, they told us that the ground doesn’t have enough load-bearing capacity and that’s why they want Modiji to come via road from Bagdogra airport,” said BJP state president Sinha.
This morning, when a team of officers, including Jag Mohan, the commissioner of Siliguri police, visited the venue and informed the state leaders present there that they would have to tweak their plan, Sinha and Sidharth Nath Singh, BJP’s national spokesperson and Bengal in-charge, protested and requested the administration to construct another helipad at the venue. PWD officers said it was not possible to construct one at such a short notice.
“Mamata Banerjee is scared of Modiji and the administration is doing all this under her instructions,” Sinha said.
Jag Mohan said: “The organisers told us that a 20-seater chopper will land at the meeting venue. It weighs around 20 tonnes. Engineers of the state PWD department objected to it, saying the ground is not firm enough to hold the wheels and there are chances the wheels might sink into the earth.”
Santosh Tamang, the assistant engineer of PWD (Siliguri construction division-II), gave the same view. “The ground is paddy land where the makeshift helipad has been built. The ground is soft and there is a risk that the wheels of the bigger chopper might sink into the earth,” he said. “We are trying to build a helipad on firm land nearby by tomorrow morning, if possible.”
Rathindra Bose, the Darjeeling district BJP president, said he had consulted the Delhi leadership. “The administration is not co-operating with us. Today, they raised objections on the chopper barely a few hours before the public meeting. We have spoken to our leaders in Delhi and it has been decided that Narendra Modi will reach the meeting venue by road from Bagdogra. If a helipad is constructed by then, we will take a call tomorrow.”