It was Narendra Modi all the way in Mumbai’s Bandra Kurla Complex, which was awash in saffron on Sunday.
Though top corporate honchos seemed to be missing from the high-profile political event, lakhs of people turned up in a show of strength to see Modi’s first rally in the city, after the BJP’s success in the recent Assembly elections.
The usual weekend silence in the BKC, headquarters to National Stock Exchange, SEBI, Wockhardt and leading lenders such as ICICI Bank, Bank of India and Bank of Baroda, was stirred into activity from an overflowing crowd at the MMRDA ground, which can hold over three lakh people.
Amid tight security with about 3,000 police personnel, including CID officers, people from BJP-stronghold regions such as Nashik, Nagpur and parts of Gujarat thronged the venue. From foreign consulate officials to special invitees to the tea vendors of Mumbai, all were there to hear the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
Calling it the “Maha-garjana” rally, BJP workers and volunteers had pulled out all stops to make the event a success.
Cultural, folk and patriotic songs and Chanakya’s good-governance acts preceded Modi’s arrival. The sound of the helicopter announced the arrival of the Gujarat Chief Minister, as the audience watched it all on the screens placed at the venue.
Tea vendors Selvaraj, Arumugam and G. Kaliraj, from Mumbai's largest slum area, were some of the 10,000 invited by the BJP, highlighting Modi’s early years as a tea vendor’s son.
Asked if they want Modi as Prime Minister, Selvaraj quickly said, “Kyu nahi...(why not?)”. He softly added, “Congress toh bekaar hai..mehngai kitni badh gayi hai...(Congress is useless...inflation has risen so much).” Selvaraj and his colleagues manage to eke out a living by earning Rs 1,000 to 1,500 a day.
In fact, Modi thundered to the audience that he wants not only tea vendors but all poor people of the country to become VIPs soon.
Modi’s speech touched upon several issues such as corruption, governance, inflation, unemployment, education, LBT (local body tax), and even setting up a film school. In his typical style, Modi kept the audience engaged, calling out to them to repeat with him.
Nearby office terraces saw watchmen on Sunday duties peering over to listen to the speech, some even climbed on trees to catch a glimpse of Modi.
BJP pulled in the crowd by allowing registrations on the internet and through mobile phones.
Young volunteers from the business and the middle classes were seen volunteering at the social media section of the party. Amit Mehta, who owns a tea import business, wore a “we want a MODIfied India” t-shirt and proudly appreciated Modi’s support for the business community.
A High Court lawyer who had come to hear Modi's speech said her lawyer community had couriered her pass for the event.
Anita Sharma, a BJP worker, one among 4,000 invited from Nagpur, claimed that even a Congress woman worker had come to hear Modi.
Auto drivers were paid Rs 1,000 to ply to and from the BKC ground to the railway station, even as special buses, ambulances, makeshift lavatories, food and water arrangements all worked to clock-work precision.
As the event ended and people left the venue still soaking in Modi’s speech, CID officer Datta Chavan said he was satisfied that the event ended without any mishaps.