Updated: January 6, 2022 8:10:26 am
It began with a light drizzle on Tuesday night, and by 11 am on Wednesday, clouds hovering over PM Narendra Modi’s Ferozepur rally venue were clearly threatening to reduce BJP’s show of strength to a dull affair. In no time, heavy rain was battering the venue lined with empty chairs and a thin crowd.
There were only a few umbrellas in the crowd irrespective of the fact that organisers were aware of a rain alert well in advance. While the stage was waterproof, a few hundred people in the crowd were seen using chairs and PM’s cutouts to dodge the downpour.
Amid all this, there were brief speeches by former chief minister Amarinder Singh and state BJP president Ashwani Sharma. However, the crowd was not informed that the prime minister will not be coming to the venue.
Amarinder, who had arrived at the venue by noon, was present on stage along with Sharma, BJP general secretary Jeevan Gupta, Union Minister and Punjab affairs incharge Gajendra Shekhawat and few others.
The rally formally kicked off at 1.45 pm with a welcome address by Jeevan amid heavy rain. By this time, the PM had already turned back after deciding to give the rally a miss due to a security breach.
As Amarinder started his address, he did not mention the change in PM’s plan, but said: “We all were waiting for rain for the past two months, it has rained finally. It is good for crops and we feel that PM’s visit has brought this rain for farmers”.
He also lashed out at Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi saying that except for making promises he couldn’t achieve anything. He repeated that he had fulfilled 92 per cent of his promises as CM of Punjab.
“(Punjab Congress president) Navjot Sidhu and other Congress leaders hold press conference and say they will put out achievements of their five-year rule, but on the other hand they mislead people saying I did nothing. Congress will go to people with a five-year report card, says Sidhu. If I have done nothing, with what report card will he go before people? People understand their lies and know about achievements of my government,” he said.
The veteran politician also said under his tenure 1.6 lakh people got government jobs, and 20 lakh others in private sector.
Sharma repeatedly pointed out in his speech that BJP workers could not reach the venue as they were stuck due to protests by “people supported by Congress government”.
“At many places, our workers were manhandled. This was the reason that they couldn’t reach the venue. Still, I salute the spirit of the ones who were braving the bad weather and rain,” he said.
Subash Sharma, general secretary of Punjab BJP, told The Indian Express: “This was state-sponsored anarchy. It is indeed an example of ‘ banana republic’. Whenever there is a route decided for PM not even a rickshaw can pass through that route, but our PM faced protestors in the middle of a flyover and had to go back. ”
He added: “It is indeed bad luck for Punjab. PM was to lay foundation stones of projects worth crores and would have announced something big for the state. It is high time for the people to decide as whether they want to tolerate this nuisance or want a peaceful and safe environment for them.”
About thin crowd at the venue, he said: “Protestors had been sitting on Amritsar-Tarn Taran road, Fazilka road, Moga and towards Muktsar. Due to this, our buses from Fazilka got stuck at Kotkhai and Wazirpur, while Jalandhar buses got stuck at Lohian and Shahkot. Many buses from Ludhiana got stuck at Moga and buses coming from Muktsar got stuck in the outskirts of Muktsar. Buses coming from Tarn Taran and Amritsar got stuck at Harrike bridge.”
When asked about the weather alert, he said, “Moderate rainfall alert was given for Wednesday and we had no idea that it will rain so heavily. However, weather wasn’t a deterrent but state-sponsored anarchy was the reason…Otherwise people were ready to listen to PM in that weather too.”
Interestingly, gathering at the VIP stage was also thin. The entire markets of Ferozepur cantonment were closed due to PM’s visit and opened only after news that he had gone back.
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