Low turnout greets Modi in Gujarat's Chalala

Low turnout greets Modi in Gujarat's Chalala

The ground should have been overflowing with people, especially when a prime minister - that too, a PM like Narendra Modi - came to address the rally. Sadly, it was not even half full. And that was the general observation of those in the crowd, as they walked out of the Gayatri Mandir Ground near Chalala in Dhari of the Patel-dominated Amreli district of Saurashtra.

Though not sparse, the number of empty chairs at the venue could make any candidate sweat. Especially when the crowd was from five different constituencies of the district. "The Patels were generally absent and Kolis were here in huge numbers," said Balubhai of Chalala village. "The other problem is that this entire belt of Rajula-Dhari is under the grip of chikungunya and dengue. This could also be the reason for the low turnout," he said.

Just outside the venue, three-four youngsters passed by, mumbling 'Jai Sardar' among themselves, throwing a glance at the rally ground.

Modi undeterred

The prime minister landed at Chalala on Monday to address the third rally of the day. Modi, for his part, appeared undeterred in his aggression towards the Opposition, just like his earlier rallies at Bhuj and Jasdan in the state.

He reminded the audience of Congress' unfavourable stance against Gujarat and held the Opposition responsible for dethroning Patel chief ministers in the state. "It is the Congress that is responsible for the ouster of four Patel chief ministers (Keshubhai, Anandiben, Babubhai, Chimanbhai) in the state... Anandiben, too, had to go because of an agitation instigated by the Congress," he told his audience from five constituencies of the district.

The constituency of his old friend Dilip Sanghani (this time, a BJP candidate from Dhari constituency) Modi perhaps knew that the going would be tough for his party in Amreli, that has a dominance of Patels. Perhaps the party, therefore, chose a place in the rural belt to get across its stand by none other than the prime minister himself.

"My friend Dilipbhai would always drag me here and raise the issue of crop insurance to farmers when Atal Behari Vajpayee ji was in power. Now, we have put in place a comprehensive crop insurance scheme for farmers," he said. He also tried to remind the crowd of how the BJP had played an important role in promoting the dairy sector in Saurashtra region.

He hit out at the Congress for continuing to complain about demonetisation. "It has been over a year and they are still complaining. Do you know why? We have put a seal on them and those who used to fund them," he said.

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