Responding to a report in The Indian Express Friday (Crowd only 50,000, Modi’s Kolkata rally ‘okay’: Varun), BJP leader Varun Gandhi tweeted: “Mischievous article in The Indian Express implying that I was trying to denigrate Modi ji and the historic Kolkata rally. Why would I denigrate a function that I myself organised? When asked whether the rally was okay, I replied it was absolutely okay. When asked about the crowd size, and whether it was more than 50 thousand, I replied it was certainly more but it is difficult to decipher the exact crowd at these mammoth rallies, hence I chose not to hazard a guess.”
Reporter Subrata Nagchoudhury replies: When I called Varun Gandhi on February 6 and asked him for his comments on the previous day’s Narendra Modi rally, he replied: “It was okay.”
Why just okay, why not excellent, I asked, given how the state BJP had reacted to the rally. Gandhi said: “Subrata, I have read your article today and what you have written is not true.”
When I asked him to explain, he said: “The crowd was not 200,000 as you had written. It would not have been more than 45,000 to 50,000 at the most.”
I told him that the 200,000-turnout in the report was based on visual estimates cross-checked with police assessments. The fact that Gandhi, a general secretary of the BJP in charge of West Bengal, feels that a Modi rally’s turnout was greatly exaggerated in the press is, indeed, newsworthy. That he sees this as “mischief” is his opinion.