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BJP's mammoth rally leaves Delhi, Gadkari exhausted

Last updated on: April 21, 2010 18:39 IST

Gadkari courts arrest, ends up fainting



The sizzling weather in New Delhi was unbearable for the Bharatiya Janata Party top brass during its rally against price rise on Wednesday with party president Nitin Gadkari fainting while moving towards Parliament to court arrest.

Gadkari, 52, was uncomfortable in the "rath" (a tractor-driven wagon), which carried senior BJP leaders L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh,

Vasundhara Raje and Vijay Goel, among others.

Their discomfort was aggravated when the police stopped their slow-moving vehicle several times to keep the swelling crowd on the road under control.

Unable to face the heat, Gadkari fainted. He was quickly revived and a wet towel placed on his head.

Senior leaders were seen fanning him and trying to make him comfortable.

When Gadkari was on his feet, the leaders helped him get down from the rath and put him in a car. He was whisked away promptly.

After seeing Gadkari's condition, Advani and Joshi also got into their cars and left. Jaitley, with a towel on his head, followed suit.

In the confusion, their arrest and release became even more symbolic than they were initially planned to be.

Ahluwalia, Kumar, Goel and others went to Parliament Street where they courted arrest and were released.

Click on NEXT to see more photographs of BJP's huge rally...

Image: Nitin Gadkari and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader LK Advani wave to their supporters in New Delhi during the rally
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Biggest mobilisation of BJP workers

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The rally was taken out to showcase the public angst against the steeply rising prices of commodities drew BJP supporters from across the country.

Braving the sizzling weather, thousands of BJP activists joined the public meeting and the march to Parliament, the first big show of strength after Nitin Gadkari took over as party chief in December last year.

There was traffic chaos in central Delhi as vehicles crawled and commuters faced a harrowing time.

In the morning, life was thrown out of gear for office-goers, as huge crowds were approaching the Ramlila Maidan, the venue for the rally.

"The biggest problem is of the route. There are jams everywhere. It's taking two hours to reach my destination instead of the usual 15 minutes," said Nazeer Mohammad, an auto rickshaw driver.

"I started from my house at 9:30 a.m. I have to take my child to the hospital in Lajpat Nagar. I have been struggling in traffic since two and half hours. Now my car is over heated and has broken down. There is not even a single policeman on this route to manage the Traffic," said Sanjay Rana, a commuter.

On Tuesday, BJP had appealed Delhiites to bear with the traffic jams from 10 am to 6 pm on Wednesday.

Image: An estimated 10000 activists took part in the rally
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui
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Anti-Congress or anti-price rally?

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The BJP top brass, led by Gadkari and party veteran L K Advani, attacked the government for rising prices of items like rice, sugar, pulses, petrol, diesel and fertiliser.

Interestingly, during the public meeting Advani spoke before Gadkari which many read as an indicator of the change in the hierarchy within the right-wing party. Usually, Advani is the last to speak at a public meeting.

The BJP alleged that food stocks are rotting due to improper management at various godowns owned by the government-owned Food Corporation of India.

The massive demonstration is the biggest mobilisation of BJP workers from across the country under the leadership of newly appointed Gadkari.

Gadkari used the occasion to lash out at the Manmohan Singh regime, saying the "wrong economic policies and bad governance" had resulted in price rise.

"The Congress had given the slogan of garibi hatao but has worked towards increasing prices," Gadkari alleged. He claimed that government figures show an increase of 41 crore in the number of BPL people.

"I have inflation rates of 25 countries where it is less than 2 percent while in India it is 11 percent Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh have betrayed the trust reposed in them by the people," Gadkari said.

He said no one in the Congress has been able to give a convincing answer on the issue of price rise.

Image: A BJP supporter shouting slogans
Photographs: Reinhard Krause/Reuters
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An all-Gadkari show

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Gadkari, who was chosen by the Sangh fountainhead Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to lead a faction-ridden BJP, seems to have managed to take all camps within the party together for this rally which had been made a prestige issue by him.

Senior BJP leaders, including leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, former party presidents Rajnath Singh, Murli Manohar Joshi and M Venkaiah Naidu, as well as chief ministers and deputy chief ministers of BJP-ruled states attended the public meeting.

Later, the leaders moved towards Parliament for a "gherao" but were arrested.

All the speakers sang praises of Gadkari and said the credit for organising a public meeting on such a huge scale goes to him.

BJP supporters from several states and regions including Kerala, Northeast, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir were mobilised for this meeting.

The BJP has criticised the government on the issue of price rise in Parliament and outside it.

The party plans to bring cut motions in Lok Sabha during the ongoing budget session on increase in prices of petrol, diesel and fertiliser.

Image: Senior BJP leaders their supporters are stopped by police
Photographs: Reinhard Krause/Reuters
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Govt target, but common man hit

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Though no violence took place throughout the public meeting or march to Parliament, there was some confusion among the rank and file as there were no senior leaders to guide the crowd.

It was meant to be a demonstration against price rise but shopkeepers near Parliament Street police station decided to make hay while the sun shines.

Protestors were charged more than the printed price for a bottle of soft drink or mineral water.

Shops opposite Parliament Street police station, where hundreds of protestors had gathered, were charging extra for a bottle of cold drink or water.

Even a policeman had to give Rs two extra for a bottle of mineral water. When someone pointed it out, he said he was not aware of the MRP and that he had already paid.

Asked why they were overcharging, a shopkeeper said, "I have paid Rs 1,100 for ice for the day. Who will pay this amount?"

Soon after leaders announced the end of protest, there was a stampede-like situation as BJP activists climbed up the dais to have a photograph with leaders.

One of the most-sought after leaders was Prakash Javedekar. Later, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Smriti Irani reached the venue and the supporters' attention shifted to them.

Image: Advani with party president Gadkari
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
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