- Videos circulated by opponents show empty rows at some PM rallies
- Large turnout at 2 of 4 rallies he held yesterday in Gujarat
- BJP workers asked to ensure better audiences for tomorrow's rallies
The PM held public meetings yesterday in Bhuj in Kutch, in Jasdan and Dhari in the region of Saurashtra and in Kadodara in Surat.
BJP sources say that the party is concerned with the scale of the audience in Jasdan and Dhari. The CID section of the police, which compiles reports for the government on the turnout for security and others reasons, suggests that there were about 7,000 people to watch Mr Modi in Jasdan, and about 10,000 in Dhari.
Anil Jain, a senior BJP leader in charge of the Gujarat campaign, told NDTV he did not wish to comment on reports of an underwhelming turnout at some rallies for the PM. "Talk to the local candidates," he said.
BJP sources reason that Jasdan is in the heart of Saurashtra, dominated by the Patel caste, and the epicenter of the movement launched by young Hardik Patel against the BJP, which, he says, is guilty of ignoring the needs of his community. Jasdan is currently held by the Congress.
Gujarat, governed uninterrupted by the BJP for 22 years, votes on December 9 and 14. Hardik Patel is supporting the Congress, which, he says, has made an acceptable offer to include the Patels among castes that benefit from affirmative action policies.
"It was a flop show. Only 6,000-odd supporters gathered there, though the BJP had claimed that they will get 50,000 workers," Kunverjibhai Bavalia told NDTV. He is the Congress' candidate from Jasdan.
However, Dr Bharat Boghara, the BJP's candidate says Mr Modi drew 50,000 people and that the video being used to suggest otherwise was shot before the PM's arrival and his voice was later juxtaposed with the footage to make it seem like he was speaking to a poorly-sized crowd.
The BJP points out that the PM's other two rallies- in Bhuj and Kamrej - gathered about 40,000 people each, an estimate corroborated by police sources.
It was at Bhuj that the PM delivered his headline-making attack on the Congress, accusing it of being anti-poor. "The Congress dislikes me because of I come from a poor background. Yes, a person from a poor family has become PM. They do not fail to hide their contempt for this fact. Yes, I sold tea - but I did not sell the nation," he said to thunderous applause.
The PM arrives in Gujarat tomorrow for another four rallies in Saurashtra and Navsari in Surat.
The first of the series is scheduled for Morbi in Saurashtra; Hardik Patel, 24, is scheduled to hold a public meeting there after the PM's. Their audiences will be compared and contrasted. Morbi has a high concentration of Patels, who form 14% of Gujarat's population is famous as a centre for tile manufacturers. The introduction of the new national sales tax or GST, which was revised and simplified after its confusing and gawky rollout, created resentment against the BJP. "Mostly people in this region have business of ceramic tiles and are unhappy with GST rates," explains one trader.