After the withdrawal of the Shiv Sena from the Bharat bandh called by the NDA, the city BJP yesterday failed to save the protest against fuel price rise and FDI in retail and aviation from turning into a flop show.
A protest march from the BJP state headquarters in Nariman Point to Mantralaya that was supposed to start at 11 am saw only about 100 protesters instead of the expected 1,000.
Not only did the rally start over an hour late because of low protester turnout, but it also did not manage to cover more than 10 metres of the 100-metre distance to its destination.
Senior leaders like Gopinath Munde and Vinod Tawde preferred to stay inside the party office till after noon, waiting for a respectable number of protesters to gather at the spot.
The grand plan drawn up by the BJP was to march the 100 metres to Mantralaya and lock its main gate.
It could not succeed because the protesters numbered only about 100 and the police had no trouble arresting their advance. With the protesters reluctant to resist the police or court arrest, the marchers were stopped before they could walk more than 10 metres.
Munde, Tawde and city BJP chief Raj Purohit led the rally, and party workers did their bit by shouting slogans as Munde asked for the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a complete rollback of the diesel price rise and FDI decisions.
Senior leaders had expected a crowd of more than 1,000, but only about 100 turned up at the appointed time.
“Had the Sena not announced that it wouldn’t participate actively in the bandh, the situation would have been very different,” a senior party functionary said, requesting anonymity. “We were expecting a crowd of more than 1,000 at our party HQ, but we couldn’t bring in the crowds because people were busy with the ongoing Ganesh festival.”
On Sunday, the Shiv Sena had announced that as Ganeshotsav would be starting on Wednesday, it would not actively participate in the bandh out of respect for the sentiments of the people.
A BJP leader, also requesting anonymity, said the Shiv Sena was sorely missed as its men are skilled in the art of street protests.
“There was talk of involving the RPI in the protest, but later it was canned,” the leader said. “Our men are not made to battle it out on the streets, and things would have been different had the Sena been there. Many were of the opinion that the BJP should also hold back the protest in Mumbai, but it was too late to take such a decision. So whatever had to be done had to be managed in one night, and considering that and the fact that south Mumbai is not our base, we did pretty well.”
Day of embarrassments
A large 10-kg lock made of copper and iron was obtained from a store in the Kalbadevi market by the BJP to accomplish its plan to lock the main gate of Mantralaya during the protest. The BJP claimed that as the cost of the lock was as high as Rs 20,000, it borrowed it from the shopkeeper for a day.
A prominently displayed banner at the BJP HQ resulted in embarrassment for the party because of spelling mistakes. Instead of ‘rasoi gas’, the banner read ‘rasoi gay’, while the word ‘koyala’ was spelt ‘kopla’. Senior party leader Madhu Chavan was seen telling people they should ignore the printing error.