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UP govt on its toes for Mayawati's 'Maha rally'

By Sharat Pradhan
March 14, 2010 21:02 IST
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Never before has so much official effort gone in to ensure success of a political rally as was being done to make the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party rally in Lucknow on Monday a grand success.

If the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party's sources were to be believed, at least a million people were to converge here for the biggest ever political event, clearly aimed to display chief minister Mayawati's strength.

No one knows what prompted her to display her strength in numbers at a juncture when no election was round the corner and the BSP government still had half its term to go. Political analysts were of the view that the mega event was planned to dispel all doubts that Mayawati's magic with her dalit constituency was fast fading.

On the face of it , the occasion was described as a celebration to mark the party's silver jubilee for which its founder Kanshi Ram's birth anniversary on March 15 – a public holiday - was considered ideal.

The manner in which crowds were being mobilized from each of UP's 71 districts shows the desperation on the part of the ruling party to prove that they could still pull huge crowds.

What the BSP also seeks to prove was that the widespread criticism about Mayawati's whimsical expenditure of more than Rs. 6000 crores on memorials and statues (including her own) had failed to dent her popularity with her constituency of dalits. "The gathering at the rally will make it loud and clear that all the Congress party's tall claims about Rahul Gandhi winning over dalits through his gimmicks were meaningless", argued a senior party functionary.

The arrival of rally volunteers began from Friday evening itself at the impressive tent colony specially created at Smriti Upvan , in the vicinity of the rally venue – Rama Bai Ambedkar ground, to play host to 30,000 BSP functionaries arriving from different corners of the country.

"We wish to show them what Behenji has done to pay her tributes to our ideologues – whose statues were installed at different parts of Lucknow, while some memorials were erected in honour of those who devoted their lives to the cause of downtrodden dalits", observed Babu Singh Kushwaha, who was not only an important member of Mayawati's cabinet but was also the principal coordinator of the rally.

As many as 1600 buses were hired from the state transport corporation besides some 800 private buses to take these "special guests" on a conducted tour of the city – essentially to let them have a feel of the grand memorials built by Mayawati for her party icons as well as her own statues .

The arrangements have been undertaken on a war-footing . And it was no mean task to cater for the boarding and lodging of 30,000 special guests . New mattresses , bed-sheets and even toiletries have been arranged under quite aesthetically erected tent-colony on the sprawling Smriti Upwan which includes a truly grand giant-sized dining hall as well as 2000 toilets .

Since the special guests had arrived a day in advance and were to stay on until Tuesday morning , a lot of logistics had to be organized. And that included food , transport for local sight seeing and for watching the special cultural show that will mark the grand finale of the silver jubilee celebrations at the 109 acre Kanshi Ram memorial being built at a cost of some Rs. 1200 crores.

A make-shift ampitheatre was built to accommodate 100,000 partymen invited to the cultural event.According to unofficial sources, "five caterers were hired against payment of Rs. 1 crore each to not only ensure all meals for some 100,000 party workers , while separate arrangements were in place to provide food packets to the million - odd volunteers, converging here to participate in the rally.

Besides insuring tight security, the state administration was busy in taking care of logistics including drinking water , transport and sanitation . A source claimed that the civic authorities were spending Rs. 17 crores towards construction of temporary toilets not only around the venue but also along the route to the rally ground as well as the camps created for the party functionaries.

Nearly two dozen temporary dispensaries and make shift hospitals have also been created , while fire brigades have been requisitioned from neighbouring districts to remain in readiness for any contingency. Asked to comment on the misuse of government machinery, Kushwaha claimed, "every penny for the rally was being spent by the party ; the government was only involved in making security arrangements and providing logistics ; but we have paid for every bus that was hired for the rally and unlike other political parties, our volunteers buy train tickets for their travel ."

Four DIG level police officers were detailed to be supervising the rally security arrangements , that were personally overseen by the state police chief . Besides, 20 additional SPs , 70 deputy SPs, 800 sub-inspectors and 4000 constables have been detailed for various rally-related duties, In addition , some 30 battalions of the Provincial Armed Constabulary have also been requisitioned for the event.

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Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow