KRISHNA HALDAR (45) runs a snack shop next to sprawling BNR grounds in Kharagpur town. On Sunday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured thousands gathered at BNR grounds that his government will ensure that small-time shopkeepers and vendors get the right to keep their shacks open as late as “big and glitzy malls”, Haldar looked unimpressed.
“Will he be able to stop the police from harassing us? Who will buy stuff from us if the shop is open till midnight? Moreover, keeping my shop open late into the night is not as important for me as is the facilities that are needed for the education of my children,” she said.
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Modi’s first rally of this election season attracted hoards of people from far-flung places like Contai in East Midnapore, Debra village and Pindrapal village in West Midnapore. But not all of them seem initiated to the party and its ideologies. “I am here to see the prime minister, I don’t know what BJP is,” said Kajal Gudu, a 30-year-old labourer from Debra.
In the morning, she had come here with a contingent of about 40 villagers from Debra — about 50 km away from Kharagpur. “We were brought here in a Matador and given breakfast and lunch,” said Kajal.
For B Hariprasad (38) and Krishnaveni (33), Telugus from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh who had settled in Kharagpur 20 years ago, the rally was little more than a Sunday outing with their children.
“I am not happy with the current government, but I also know that BJP will make no mark here. This is just an opportunity for us to see the Prime Minister, that’s why we are here,” said Hariprasad, who works in a “dying” mill.
Though the Prime Minister kept insisting that Bengal needs to give BJP a chance, Bimal Nayak, a labourer from Nayagram in West Midnapore, wanted to know what exactly will the party deliver. “We were told by the Trinamool government that they will build toilets in our homes… they failed to deliver. Will the BJP give us proper toilets?” asked Nayak, who earns about Rs 100 a day.
Akul Khanudi (51) a former CPM supporter, came to attend the rally because he is “cornered by Trinamool goons” in his Pindrapal village in West Midnapore. “Since I was a CPM worker, I was targeted by Trinamool workers. They wanted me to join them, but I didn’t. CPM wasn’t an option, so I have come here to show that I am with BJP. Though I really don’t support the party,” he said.