With an eye on the 2019 General Elections, the ruling party has been adapting several strategies to emphasise and amplify power and popular appeal on the ground. Known for innovative trend-setting techniques – think Modi wave, 2014, and social media & IT cells – campaigns and rallies have been turned around on their heads too, in a bid to stake claim.
The BJP Bike Rally, allegedly the brainchild of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and a Prime Minister favourite, flagged off by Yogi Adityanath himself, has been one such strategy. On 17 November, local Mahoba witnessed this hulchul too, when a biking cavalcade passed through.
“This is a bike rally to spread the word of ‘lotus’,” said Kunwar Pushpendra Sinha Chandel, local BJP MP, whom we can almost never access during our regular beat otherwise, but had made a huge effort to be seen and heard during this rally. Riding pillion, clad in neta whites, and speaking over a roaring crowd of riders, he said, “Ten party workers from every locality in Uttar Pradesh will drive down on motorcycles to meet at the Lok Sabha Centre. After that, we will all assemble together as a group to travel around the state.”
The rally saw participation across all levels of administration, from MPs and MLAs to district collectors and party workers, with a huge show of youth too – i.e. young men. However, the energy and drive ensured chaos on the streets, since the rally participants had clearly placed any and all traffic rules right at the bottom of their jan sampark agenda. As senior KL reporter Sunita Prajapati, reporting from the rally at Ramleela Maidan, put it, “Many rally participants were seen triple-sharing and riding without helmets, among other non-observances of traffic rules.”
Road accidents are a sizeable cause of accidental deaths in this country; data shows that at least 98 two-wheeler riders not wearing helmets died every single day in 2017; while even more were grievously injured. Uttar Pradesh, not surprisingly, accounted for 5111 of the 36,000 fatalities that occurred as a result of helmet-less riding.
And as severe as the thought of powerful party members flouting general rules might be, the rally did more than just disrupt traffic. According to Shyamkali, another KL reporter on her Kulpahad beat in Mahoba, several of the bikers had caused dissonance at petrol pumps. “The BJP workers have made this their adda. They hang out here and are barring the locals from getting petrol,” she said, standing outside the petrol pump which, with tons of BJP workers scattered across, seems to have been coloured saffron. “The villagers are saying they don’t know where this rally is coming from or going to, but right now, they are unable to buy any petrol, all the gas is being used by the BJP members,” she added.
Jagdev Vishvakarma from Simoli village confirmed this fact with a resounding “Yes, absolutely”. He added exasperatedly, “They asked me whether I was going for the rally or not; I said no. And so they have refused to provide us with petrol. Some of the people just said that they are going to the rally, so they can get their petrol. They’ve been discarding the flags being distributed by the rally members on the road alongside.”
However, the General Secretary of the BJP Farmer’s Wing, Kamlesh, present at the Kulpahad petrol pump at the time, was quick to deny, “This is not true. Everyone is getting both petrol and diesel.” Decked out in signature BJP paraphernalia himself, he took a moment to finish chewing the gutka before replying to Shyamkali, who cross-questioned him, “There is no such withholding of petrol. In fact, we’re giving them priority. It is only after their petrol is filled that we take our share.”
Khabar Lahariya is a women-only network of rural reporters from Bundelkhand.
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Updated Date: Nov 29, 2018 19:03:50 IST