With less than a week left for the first phase of the general elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address a public rally in north Bengal’s Cooch Behar on Sunday, four days after his twin rallies in the state.
The meeting will be held at the sprawling Rash Mela ground near the Cooch Behar Palace, where West Bengal Chief Minister and one of the most vicious critics of Modi, Mamata Banerjee is set to address a rally the next day.
The Lok Sabha constituency of Cooch Behar will go the hustings along with the neighbouring Alipurduar seat on April 11, during the first phase of polling in the state.
Modi is expected to address issues like border security, infiltration, refugee rights and law and order problems besides continuing his tirade against Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress government during his speech at the border district.
The two opposing parties locked horns over building the stage at the rally venue after the Trinamool initially refused to stop building the temporary shade for the attendees at the Chief Minister’s rally on Monday, which would have occupied nearly half of the rally ground.
According to the Bharatiya Janata party’s local leaders, the cloud of uncertainty has cleared out after the local Trinamool leaders held talks with the Special Protection Group team that visited the spot on Friday and agreed to dismantle the structure partially.
“Initially there was a disagreement over building the dais as they (Trinamool) refused to dismantle the temporary shade from the ground. They have been intentionally occupying the ground since long in the name of the Chief Minister’s rally. But they have now agreed to partially remove the structure, after coming under pressure from the people of Cooch Behar,” Malati Rava, BJP’s district chief, told IANS.
She said there is “unprecedented enthusiasm” among people as Modi will be the first Prime Minister to visit the town after Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s.
“It was a long-standing demand of the people of Cooch Behar town. None of the Prime Ministers have addressed a public rally after Rajiv Gandhi. They are extremely enthusiastic over tomorrow’s meeting as Modiji has agreed to come. The turnout will be massive,” she said.
The saffron outfit has fielded erstwhile youth Trinamool leader Nisith Pramanik, who has 11 criminal cases against him including attempt to murder, outraging the modesty of women, dacoity and theft.
Pramanik, whose candidature evoked tumultuous protests within the party’s local unit, is pitted against Trinamool’s Paresh Chandra Adhikary, Gobinda Roy of Left ally Forward Bloc and Congress’ Piya Roy Chowdhury.
Rava, however, emphasised that he was popular and could win the seat for the party.
“We are hoping that he will emerge victorious. The charges labelled against him by the police are false. People are coming out in massive numbers in his support. Tomorrow’s meeting will show that people of Cooch Behar are with Modi ji and his wave of development,” she added.