AHEAD OF Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally at the historic Paddal maidan on Tuesday, top BJP leadership looked upset over the move to facilitate landing of the PM’s helicopter at the rally venue, significantly reducing the rally space.
“We feel around 35,000-40,000 people will not be able to get into the ground and it would certainly leave them disappointed. We have plans to bring 1.25 lakh people. Now the decision to facilitate landing of chopper has reduced the space for audience,” said state BJP president Satpal Satti.
Modi is the fourth prime minister to hold a rally at Paddal ground of Mandi after Indira Gandhi (1982), P V Narsimha Rao (1993) and Atal Bihari Vajpayee (2002-2003). This is Modi’s first visit to the state after becoming prime minister.
Besides addressing ‘Parivartan rally’ — aimed at capturing power in the state Assembly polls in 2017 — the Prime Minister will also dedicate three mega hydel projects — Rampur (412 MW), Koldam (800 MW) and Parbati hydel project (512 MW) — to the nation from the same venue created at the rear of the dais.
On Monday, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh paid a surprise visit to the rally venue, on his way back from Kullu. His entire entourage came straight to the venue, leaving the BJP leaders stunned.
Flanked by Health Minister Kaul Singh Thakur, a native of Mandi, the Chief Minister took stock of security and other arrangements for the Prime Minister’s visit with DGP Sanjay Kumar and IG (Mandi) Ajay Yadav, besides SGP officials.
“Chief Minister visited the site from where the Prime Minister will dedicate the three hydel projects to the nation,” said a close CM aide.
Hours before this, Singh declared at Kullu that the government would welcome the Prime Minister but the rally would not have any impact during the next Assembly polls. The CM said he would hold an equally strong rally very soon to give the BJP a befitting reply.
The CM’s principal advisor T G Negi, who reached Mandi, carried a draft memorandum which the Chief Minister would submit to the Prime Minister to raise the state’s issues with Modi. The idea of submitting a memorandum is to corner the BJP on the state’s pending issues, including resolution of the state’s share in the BBMB projects — already upheld by the Supreme Court but delayed by states, mainly Punjab which owes Rs 4,250 crore arrears to the state due from 1967.