L K Advanis Jan Chetna Yatra on Sunday received a lukewarm response after a large number of empty chairs greeted the BJP stalwart at the Pathrala rally in Bathinda,much to the disappointment of yatra coordinator and state BJP general secretary Manjit Singh Rai,who appeared visibly upset and was seen pulling up the organisers.
The poor turnout for the saffron party,an ally of ruling SAD,at a time when Punjab is inching towards the Assembly polls,continued all the way up to Bathinda where not many people turned up to greet the BJP leader at the scheduled halt points of the yatra. The police,however,ensured that tight security arrangements were in place on the 40-km stretch from the yatras entry point at Dabwali up to Bathinda.
The only respite came at Bathinda with a sizeable number of people gathering to listen to Advani. Talks were rife that Bathinda show was more an Akali effort rather than a BJP one to mobilise people for the rally. Many supporters were heard raising slogans in favour of an Akali leader with SAD placards in their hands at Bathinda.
In Pathrala,however,even the SAD failed to mobilise to any crowd even as a local Akali leader claimed that the majority of people who welcomed Advani at the Haryana-Punjab border were Akali workers.
When asked about the poor turnout at Pathrala,Manjit Singh Rai attributed the empty chairs at Pathrala to a variety of reasons: Some people failed to make it to the venue as they were having langar (common kitchen food), he said,adding,Some others were stopped by the security personnel from entering the venue. Rai also offered other reasons like the audience got split as the Yatra stopped at a number of places and people stood up to listen to Advani making the chairs vacant.
Advani,however,seemed completely oblivious to a large number of empty chairs and attributed the rousing reception to the big role of Congress. He addressed the gathering at Pathrala from inside his vehicle,while at Bathinda,he spoke from an inbuilt elevator that rose on the roof of the bus.
Earlier in the day,Advani was welcomed at Doomwali check post on the Haryana Punjab border by Bathinda MP Harsimrat Badal,Akali leader Balwinder Singh Bhunder,BJP leader Tikshan Sud and Punjab BJP incharge Ashwani Sharma.