Suresh Kumar Verma tears off an acknowledgement slip from a form and hands it over to a woman. The acknowledgement slip bears the name and signature of Verma and his phone number and mentions him as the person who made the woman a member.
This was the scene outside a local temple in Mansa Devi Complex, Sector 5, Panchkula on Thursday. The exercise being carried out was BJP’s membership drive in the poll-bound Haryana.
A saffron robe around his neck reading Sangathan Parv 2019 Sadsyata Abhiyan, Verma also wore two badges – the round one relating to membership drive reading Sarvsparshi Bhajpa-Sarvvyapi Bhajpa (BJP that connects with all and is present everywhere) and a rectangular one reading “Phir ek baar Manohar sarkaar (Once again Manohar government)” identifying Verma as Shakti Kendra Pramukh, Palak Sammelan, 27 July, Anaj Mandi, Rohtak.
Verma and his team, comprising local booth incharges, had a busy evening telling people, majority of whom were devotees visiting the temple, to dial a particular number to get One Time Password (OTP) to set the process in motion for the party’s membership drive. In the backdrop, a few metres away stood the temple depicting various Hindu deities and an under-construction statue of Lord Shiva.
Outside the temple, two women stopped to find out more after being asked to become “Sadsaya of Modi parivar” by the BJP leaders. As they enquired, a BJP leader told them that they had made Modi win and now they should become member of the Modi family. The women, however, moved away saying, ‘’We made Modi win and this is sufficient.”
However, majority of those visiting the stall were seen filling up the membership form. The stall had flags with BJP poll symbol — lotus — on both sides of the tables where membership registers were being handled.
A young woman who filled the form said, “My husband is a BJP supporter. Last to last elections, we had voted for the BJP. But, in this election, we could not vote as we shifted our residence and our votes could not be made at new place,” she said. A man who received a text about his membership complained that the text was in “Kannada”. “I have been a BJP member earlier and have again filled the form for the membership,” said the man, as a BJP leader added, “The old membership is deleted.”
The moment this correspondent reached the spot, a smiling Verma promptly asked for OTP and when told there was no OTP, one of the booth incharges who later identified herself as Poonam Sharma asked the correspondent to give the mobile handset, and keyed in numbers which she said after being dialled would return an OTP to start the membership drive.
“The membership drive began on July 6 and will continue till August 6. We intend to increase the members to one and half times the current strength,” said Verma, BJP’s Shakti Kendra Pramukh of Sector 5, Mansa Devi Complex, Panchkula.
Asked about carrying out the political membership drive right in front of a temple, Verma said, “We have had held membership drives in parking lots and other residential areas. Today, we thought of putting up a booth here. Had we conducted any public meeting, it might have been objectionable. Moreover, during recent Lok Sabha polls, party booth was set up here only, as it is more than 200 meters away from the community centre where polling was held. We are not forcing any devotees to become members.”
Booth incharge Poonam Sharma added, “We are sitting with our backs towards the temple. We are not forcing anyone to become a BJP member. The fact is that there is big enthusiasm among people to become BJP member and they are voluntarily coming forward to become BJP members. We do not force anyone. If someone is a Congress supporter, we don’t force that person to become a BJP member.”
Verma said: “We do community service also during similar exercises. There were snakes around the centre where voters were being enrolled ahead of Lok Sabha elections. We got the administration to get the area cleared of snakes. Today, we asked administration to carry out a cleanliness drive in the parking on the other side of the road.”