Bahraich: Narendra Modi's
rally in Bahraich today is on with the Uttar Pradesh government giving it security clearance this morning, only hours before the BJP's prime ministerial candidate is scheduled to land in this politically important region that sends 17 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
The rally comes days after serial blasts killed six people in Bihar's Patna just ahead of a Modi rally and the UP government has been jittery about security. It has now deployed 1500 policemen and 86 anti-terror commandos to secure the venue and now says it finds the arrangements "satisfactory".
The turnout at the venue so far is not as impressive as Mr Modi's previous rallies in the state and the BJP blames "heightened security" for it - roads leading to the rally venue have been barricaded and the entire area has been secured. Most buses deployed to ferry supporters to the rally are running empty.
Till yesterday, the UP administration was willing to give only a partial clearance to the security arrangements, though the BJP made it clear that it would go ahead with the rally. The party put the onus of Mr Modi's security squarely on the state government, which in turn had said that the BJP must ensure that security at the rally venue is up to the mark. (Poor security at Narendra Modi's rally venue: Uttar Pradesh government)
Officials said they were worried that a seven-foot barricade to keep the crowd away from Mr Modi's stage was not ready, and neither was a helipad next to the venue.
Bahraich, near the porous border with Nepal, was recently in the news for the arrest of a suspected operative of the Indian Mujahideen, the terror group which investigators allege carried out the Patna blasts that targeted Mr Modi's rally on October 27.
The BJP leader's security has since been a matter of much controversy since then, with his party accusing the Bihar government of Nitish Kumar and the Centre of inadequate attention to Mr Modi's safety.
Sources say though providing security cover to Mr Modi in Bahraich has been a logistical nightmare for it, the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh did not want to be seen as blocking the rally.
Mr Modi has been addressing a series of rallies in Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP hopes to stage a comeback in the national election due by May. Bahraich is crucial to that plan; the BJP had won only one of the 17 Lok Sabha seats in this area in 2009, coming in fourth with a tally of 10 in a four-cornered contest in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 seats.