Shoved, pushed by crowds, VIPs bristle at arrangements at Wankhede

BJP spent crores to ensure that the induction of its first govt in the state was a smash hit, but the event ended up literally smashing many guests: the organisers’ crowd management skills broke down in the face of vast hordes trying to get in Wankhede

The swearing-in of the Maharashtra Chief Minister at Wankhede Stadium yesterday left many invitees swearing.

A couple of hours into Friday’s blockbuster event, the open-to-the-public affair changed its plotline to a free-for-all, thanks to fervid audiences trying to gain entry to the political theatre.

Drawing the line: Cops had to move barriers close to the VIP seats to keep the crowds at a safe distance. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi, Pradeep Dhivar
Drawing the line: Cops had to move barriers close to the VIP seats to keep the crowds at a safe distance. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi, Pradeep Dhivar

The untrammeled swarm of people put off some very important persons (VIPs) invited to the crowning of Devendra Fadnavis as CM, and many simply stormed out — shoved and elbowed their way out, to be accurate — as they couldn’t jostle in or find a seat. They had flown in to attend what they thought was a historic event, but left with the stinging embarrassment of having to force their way in.

In such a rush, the regular Mumbaikar trying to gain a peek at his new CM had little hope, although ample practice.

Gate #3 of Wankhede Stadium saw Vasant Dhoble in action, to channel the movement of VIPs. But even his stiff reputation failed to instill any form of discipline among the wayward crowds.

The Shiv Sena, which had said it wouldn’t attend the ceremony, almost couldn’t. Due to the crush of bodies, they had to be let in not from the VIP entrance but from another gate.

For instance, after having waited for nearly an hour in a queue, Diwakar Raote was finally seen coming in from gate #3.

He said, “Since 2.30 pm I was standing near gate #3 to enter, but at 3.30 pm I was still in the queue. There was too much rush at this gate so I started to walk away, but even getting out was difficult. Now, I will try and enter from some other gate.”

He added, “I was asked by my party leaders to attend the event, as there was an invitation by the BJP to my party chief. That’s why I came.”

BJP leaders had to appeal to the police and people to cooperate, by letting singer Asha Bhosle, who had been stranded for 20 minutes at the gate, enter the venue.

Director Madhur Bhandarkar requested the security personnel to be allowed in, but he met with stiff resistance, said witnesses at the gate. Thwarted by the sea of people blocking the entrance, actor Nana Patekar made a U-turn.
— Inputs by Urmimala Banerjee, Ravikiran Deshmukh

Ruffled UAE Consul General walks away
Foreign guests got a bitter taste of the famous Indian hospitality. The Consul General of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammad Yusuf, could not gain access even on a VIP pass, and was affronted.

“This feels really insulting. My clothes got dirty. This is not the way to treat special guests. I have been given a VIP entry pass, but guards are making us walk from one gate to another,” Yusuf said. He proceeded to point to his clothes, which had got scuffed.

Ruffled UAE Consul General walks away

“I am not going anywhere now. I am very upset and am heading straight back to my hotel. Before especially inviting us for such an occasion, proper homework should be done on how to treat VIP guests,” said Yusuf, wishing to let senior BJP leaders know exactly how he felt.

A Chinese delegation with Yusuf was also made to wander from one point to another for entry. “This is not the treatment we should be given. We have been invited specially for the ceremony, but no one is here to accompany us to the programme,” said a member of the group, and walked away without telling us his name.

Party didn’t brief us: Cops
Police officers stationed outside the stadium told us that the chaos - which began post 2 pm, two hours after the ceremony started – was because BJP issued the guest passes at the last moment, and did not bother to brief the force on how to deal with guests with passes.

Moreover, the BJP had distributed about 3,500 passes among its cadres alone, mostly to those from the city. Party workers claimed the passes were handed out to them so they could help manage the crowd, but it seemed that the extra numbers only piled on to the chaos.

Cops, as such, had a tough time reining in the crowd, as people continued to flock to the gates.

Requesting anonymity, one of the police officers said, “The party did not even show us the passes, so we had no clue whom to send in, or how many people should be allowed in on a single pass. There were three people entering on one pass, crowding up the place. Our senior officers had to intervene to take control of the situation.”

Singer Anuradha Paudwal
Singer Anuradha Paudwal

Well-coordinated: Paudwal
One attendee, at least, spoke of the experience positively. Singer Anuradha Paudwal, who was not allowed to enter from gate #1 and asked to go to another gate, said, “It was really nice. I got the invite four days ago and am attending it with my daughter, Kavita, and son-in-law, Nitin Tulpule. I came from Khar while they came from Dadar, but we were planning to enter together. When I reached near gate #4A, the VIP movement was going on and we were asked to wait for five minutes. Actually, the entry was from the other side but the security was nice enough to let us in from here. The stadium was filled with eminent people and the function was organised in a grand and well-coordinated manner. It was nice to see the kind of enthusiasm that Mr Modi generates. I feel such a ceremony is the first of its kind in the state. I also caught up with Vivek Oberoi and Poonam Dhillon.”

Voices
Pravin Gaikwad, Nanded resident, who had come with his friends 
I have been here since 3 pm, but didn’t manage to get inside the stadium due to the crowd, which seems out of the police’s control. The entry arrangements are all over the place. Police failed in guiding us throughout the Marine Drive stretch.

Pravin Katale, Bhandup resident 
I had managed to get a pass and somehow entered the stadium to see our new CM, but the crowd inside disappointed me a lot. There was no space in the stadium, but more public was being sent in. That’s why I threw away my pass and went home.

Gaurishankar Patwa, Diva resident 
There was no space even to stand, but I was curious to watch the ceremony in person. I didn’t manage to get a pass, but I got entry as the event was open to the public.

Rajendra Thakkar, Borivli resident 
I want to see BJP doing a wonderful job, but here, even the corridors are full of people. I reached the stadium at 2.30 pm, so I got space. But the people who came later had to jump hoops to get in. After coming out, I saw caps with BJP symbols littered on the ground, and people were stamping on them.

Sanjay Sisod, Dhule resident 
I came to the city with my eight friends to see our new CM. We had an amazing time, as the whole stadium was in full support of the new government.

Harak Bisht, senior resident from Diva 
Though I didn’t get a pass, I had been in the stadium hoping that the new government would make a positive change. I also brought my friends hopeful of a better future.

— As told to Pooja Kalwar

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