Siliguri, April 10: The BJP today claimed that people from all walks of life had flocked to listen to Narendra Modi in Siliguri because of the party’s systematic effort to reach out to voters of different ages, occupations and economic strata, both from the hills and the plains.
While officials of the state intelligence pegged the number of people at the rally at 35,000, sources in the BJP claimed that the footfall was around 2 lakh.
Modi, who reached Bagdogra by a flight and then made it to the venue by a chopper, was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd with many donning his masks and waving at the leader as he walked into the dais.
“The meeting was a success. There was a huge crowd, comprising youths, women, tea garden workers, senior citizens and even school students who cheered and clapped as Modi spoke,” said Rathindra Bose, the Darjeeling district president of the BJP.
“Such a huge gathering was possible because of the hard work and systematic efforts of our workers and leaders who approached people of different ages, communities, occupations and economic strata, both from the hills and the plains. Added to it, the people were generally enthusiastic about the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and wanted to hear him,” he added.
Bose said invitation letters had been sent to “chai walas” (tea sellers) in and around Siliguri. “Minorities, first-time voters and youths were also invited by the workers of the BJP as well as those of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and the KPP.”
“The workers could spread the message among voters in remote areas of the hills and the plains. The campaign was aided by three tableaux which roamed across the Darjeeling constituency, announcing the arrival of Modi in Siliguri to campaign for the BJP,” said Bose.
A Class XII student in Siliguri said he had come to see Modi out of curiosity.
“We are first time voters and have been hearing a lot about Narendra Modi. As he visited our region today, we turned up to hear him,” said Rahul Sonar, who came with his classmate, Shiv Kumar Singh.
For Pradip Topno, a peon on Sukna Tea Estate, it was a sense of despair that had brought him to the Panchkelguri ground.
“In the past 10 years, we have not seen much change in the tea industry. Whatever has been done for us was by the owners of respective tea estates. To get land rights, the primary demand of all tea garden dwellers, we have actively participated in the programmes of the DYFI and the CPM. After a change of power in the state, we have also seen the Trinamul Congress announce welfare measures for us. But nobody is addressing the basic problems faced by the tea estate population. Everyone is talking about the possibility of a change at the Centre. So I also came to hear Narendra Modi,” said Topno.
Invoking Modi’s simple background as a tea seller, the BJP has brought in 30-odd “chai walas”. “Some BJP workers met me yesterday evening and handed me a written invitation to hear a former ‘chai wala’ who is vying for the prime ministerial post now. I came here to listen to him,” said Paresh Chandra Burman, a tea-seller on the outskirts of Siliguri.
Members of NaMo Brigade, a group of 14 youths from Kurseong, who are campaigning for Modi through Facebook with “Darjeeling for NaMO” page, were also at the meeting. They were heard chanting “Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi”.
“We are not BJP workers but want to see Modi as the prime minister to expedite the development of India. That is why we are here today,” said Chandan Prasad, a member of the group. “In Kurseong, we asked our neighbours and acquaintances to attend the rally. Many of them have come.”
Darjeeling votes on April 17