The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Target 5 lakh, turnout 50,000

Ranchi, Nov. 15: Jharkhand’s Foundation Day celebrations, which the BJP had turned into the party’s show of strength, flopped miserably with only about 50,000 people turning up, against a minimum target of five lakh.

Chief minister Babulal Marandi had pressed the entire state machinery into service for the rally that was meant to show off the BJP’s mass base and the government’s popularity. But the crowds played truant, the Opposition boycotted the celebrations and even the BJP’s alliance partners stayed away, angry that the party had usurped the official show.

Among the 50,000 people who did turn up, there were beneficiaries of various government schemes who had come to receive their share, officials and casual visitors. According to official estimates, the beneficiaries of schemes such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, who had come for the bounty, numbered about 25,000.

Apart from the government bandobast into which Marandi had put all his might, the BJP had been preparing for its rally for over a month. The city was painted saffron with banners, festoons and welcome arches, but even the impounded vehicles failed to attract the masses to Morahbadi, a party insider said.

“Had the BJP achieved even half of its target, all the roads in Ranchi would have been choked,” said a visitor.

“Morahbadi gets filled to the brim with 70,000 people, but even the barricaded portion was not choc-a-bloc. This is a major setback to Marandi, for whom it was a prestige issue and a personal show. He had tried to ensure the success of the ceremony by constituting a special committee under state unit president Abhaykant Prasad and by assigning minimum targets to all party MLAs,” said a BJP functionary.

“The lukewarm response to the rally has exposed Marandi and the BJP,” added a party activist from Ranchi. “The ruling party enjoys many privileges that the Opposition cannot have. Even then, the JMM rally called soon after the formation of Jharkhand by Sibu Soren was a resounding success. The rally was disciplined by JMM standards and attracted about 50,000 people, though the party claimed it to be over a lakh. Compared to the JMM rally, today’s BJP rally was a flop.”

With residents choosing to stay home, Ranchi’s roads, barring those leading to Morahbadi, lacked even the normal hustle and bustle. “Morning shows the day. If this is the mass-base of the BJP, it is high time Marandi wakes up from his stupor to have a smooth sailing in the next Assembly polls,” a senior government official said.

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