Advani draws big crowd, many leave during speech


New Delhi: Thousands of people filled the spacious Ramlila ground here to witness the conclusion of the 40-day Jan Chetna Yatra of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani, but many left before he concluded his speech.

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When Advani arrived at the venue in central Delhi at 12.40 p.m., the vast ground was almost full to capacity with party workers and general public.

But many people started leaving during the speech, which began at 2.10 p.m. Party activists said this was because of the delayed start of the rally, originally scheduled for 11 a.m.

“It was like a film. As the last scene began, audience began to disperse,” said Sanjiv Sharma, a BJP worker from Laxmi Nagar in east Delhi, who stayed in the ground till the rally’s end.

A policeman, who has been on duty during many earlier rallies, said Sunday’s rally was one of the biggest in the recent years.

According to him, the attendance was “much bigger than during the fast by Hazare in August, but the enthusiasm was little less than Anna followers”.

“The Ramlila Maidan has witnessed several historic rallies. But I have never seen such a rally,” said 84-year-old Advani.

Delhi BJP chief Vijender Gupta was complimented by Advani and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj for organising the rally.

The audience included a large number of women and Muslims.

Groups of Muslims, the men wearing skull caps and women dressed in traditional abayas, occupied key spots at the rally venue.

“The days of Sikander saheb are returning. We will show it in the coming polls,” Naseem Ahmed, a party activist from Old Delhi told IANS, reminding the active support of Muslims to the erstwhile Janata Party and the BJP.

The community’s support propelled Sikander Bakht, a Muslim from Old Delhi, to central ministership in the Janata Party government in 1977 and the National Demorcatic Alliance government in the 1990s.

According to Sahasranshu Mahapatra, a researcher in political trends, it was an achievement for the party to gather a massive crowd in the days of television, internet and other entertainment. Several Delhiites were proceeding to the trade fair at Pragati Maidan on the day, he said.

“It is a reasonable revival of the good old political rally. It did not look like a hired crowd too. Otherwise, even ardent party supporters prefer to see the rallies on TV,” Mahapatra told IANS.

The security was tight, with police frisking all rallyists. The party had also deployed hundreds of volunteers to assist in the arrangements.