Mamata's Mega Rally - Modi Hatao, Desh Bachao

Raman Swamy

Love them or hate them, you can’t ignore them.  There is something about political “achievers” that sets them apart from the ordinary people. 

Some of those who attended the Modi Hatao, Desh Bachao mega rally in Kolkata are past their prime – like Sharad Pawar, Farooq Abdullah and HD Deve Gowda - but they have been Ministers, Chief Ministers and even Prime Ministers. 

Some are aspiring spring chickens of Indian politics – like Tejeswi Yadav,  Jayant Chaudhry,  Jignesh Mevani and Hardik Patel – but they have the spark in them to stand in front of a crowd of many lakhs and manage to sound coherent.

And then there are some who are currently holding important posts as regional leaders – like Chandrababu Naidu and Mamata Banerjee - but are fired with the burning ambition to soar even higher on the national platform. 

Some are driven by other motives -  like Aroon Shourie and Yeshwant Sinha – who see themselves not as national leaders but as king-makers and strategists.  

Whatever their individual profile and role, they had one thing in common on Saturday afternoon -  to be seen together on the same stage and forge a united front to contest the next elections. 

That was what the mega show in Kolkata was all about.  And even the most cynical critics would have to admit that it was a resounding success – in terms of sheer optics and show of togetherness.   The Bengal chief minister played the role of hostess to perfection and even exceeded expectations by acting as the EmCee (master of ceremonies) with dazzling efficiency and elan.  

Throughout the four hours of the event she was at her energetic chirruping best, introducing speakers with pithy comments, coming out with a stream of quips, keeping the restive crowd under control at regular intervals, remaining on her feet from start to finish, flitting about on stage energetically and most important of all making a lively speech in a delicious mix of Hindi, Bengali and English to cater to the multilingual diversity of her guests. 

Every one of 23 leaders who attended spoke with extraordinary brevity and focus.  Amazingly, for men of such accomplishment, ambition and egos,  not one of them used the platform for self-aggrandizement. On the contrary they stuck to the script – let us unite to defeat Modi’s BJP -  and they did it with rare humility and camaraderie. 

Most of what they said may soon be forgotten and in any case was less relevant than the very fact that they had all come together -  from Kashmir to Kanyakumari,  Arunachal to Andhra,  Jharkhand to Gujarat,  they came from all corners of the compass of India.       

Shatrughan Sinha, predictably one of the star speakers among a galaxy of orators, perhaps summed it up most aptly:  "I haven't seen such a huge crowd in the recent past. It's the magic of our leader, Mamata Banerjee. We have gathered here to present the views of the NEWS (North, East, West and South)."

That was the essence of the event.  The sea of humanity, the gushing gratitude towards Mamata for taking the initiative and the success of attracting such a diverse politicians of various hues – all with a single message:  Modi Hatao, Desh Bachao.

Issues there were aplenty, catch-phrases and slogans galore.  The mix of political references were varied and impactful enough for the occasion. 

A few samples:
"HAL was not given the contract to build aircraft. Please come clean with facts on Rafael otherwise you have to hear the nation chant - Chowkidar Chor Hai,  Chowkidar Chor Hai.

"Demonetisation was announced in haste. He announced it like a true dictator without consulting anybody.  Women who had accumulated some wealth for their families' benefit, were left in lurch when note ban happened”.

“Let us show BJP a mirror so that they understand that it's a democracy and they cannot do such injustice.

"Ek Naya Bharat Banayenge, Bhajpa Ko Bhagayenge”

DMK leader Stalin who had flown in from Chennai for the rally with Farooq Abdullah from Kashmir and Mamata Banerjee herself, who switched constantly from English to Hindi with a smattering of Bengali thrown in. Also speaking in English was former Prime Minister H. D. Devegowda - a canny political operator undoubtedly but not an orator.

The fact that almost the entire Opposition turned up for the rally can be seen as an indication of two things.  Some are terrified of being left in a political wilderness for another five years. Some genuinely believe that Modi-Shah pose a threat to democracy.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu sounded a dire warning:   "Democracy is under threat.  India is being broken into pieces deliberately.  A campaign to spread hatred and violence is going on."

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah went much further, evoking the rise of the Nazis in pre-World War II Germany and saying: "Unless we unite and defeat the forces of evil, a situation where Hitler rises and Goebbels rises will take permanent control."

From the key State of Uttar Pradesh, came the SP's Akhilesh Yadav, with Bahujan Samaj Party being represented by her lieutenant Satish Mishra. From Bihar RJD, there was Lalu Prasad Yadav's son Tejashwi Yadav, who drove home the message that a mix of investigative agencies were being unleashed against the Opposition as the elections came closer. From the BJP itself, there was former disinvestment minister Arun Shourie and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha. And of course Shatrughan Sinha.

These were in addition to Arvind Kejriwal, Stalin, Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel.  From the Congress, there were Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Singhvi. Rahul Gandhi himself stayed away, reportedly, at the request of the Congress state unit in Bengal which didn't want its leader on the platform at a meeting organised by its arch-rival Mamata.  A message of support from Sonia Gandhi was read out. 

"Who will be the prime minister can be decided after the Lok Sabha elections," Mamata declared.  “I am not concerned about who becomes the PM, I just want BJP to go".   That captured the tone. 

Jan 20, 2019

Raman Swamy [email protected]

Your Comment if any