All roads in the Goa capital Panaji seemed to lead to just one place — Campal Ground, venue of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's only rally in the build up of 4 February polling to elect the new state legislative Assembly. So much so that even the conductor of a city bus was seen having fun.
Instead of announcing that bus had reached the Campal ground, he just announced "Chalo Modi jeetao" (go, make Modi victorious).
The crowd was coming from every possible direction, except the barricaded Mandovi river, flowing next to the rally venue. One had to stand in queues to enter the ground and go through strict security checks, including walking through metal detectors and physical frisking. No bags etc, were allowed to be taken in and smokers were pottery told to deposit their cigarette packets and lighters, assuring they can pick the same up while leaving.
Compared to the the arch-rival Indian National Congress' national vice-president Rahul Gandhi's maiden rally in Goa last month to kick start his party's campaign, security at Modi's rally was tight. Not without reason, though. Besides, the fact that he is the Indian prime minister, the incident of bomb blasts in Bihar's capital Patna in the run up to 2014 General Elections are still fresh. Since Goa has been under the rule of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the past five years, any untoward incident at the rally would be lead to an electoral debacle at a time BJP is working hard to retain power in the southwestern coastal state.
No one, however, was sure when would the BJP's star campaigner arrive. Initially, he was supposed to arrive at 4.30 pm. On Saturday morning, the BJP announced the revised timing of 3.30 pm, and later changed it to 4 pm. However, 45 minutes later, there was no sign of Modi yet while crowd kept pouring in.
The Goa BJP leaders, however, kept the cried busy by making their speeches. They may not get another occasion to address such a large crowd in tiny Goa with population of just little more than 1.5 million and registered voters count of just above 1.07 million.
The shifting timing of Modi's arrival timing could be a reflection on BJP's shifting fortunes as the party is making desperate moves to emerge victorious with majority of its own in the 40 member assembly, which even local BJP leaders agree in private that it's difficult, if not impossible. After completion of three phases of campaigning, they are pinning hope on Modi to play the pied-piper and swing mood of voters spoilt for choices after entry of the Aam Aadmi Party into the fray.
Updated Date: Jan 28, 2017 17:43 PM