The BJP may have scored over its rivals in adapting to the COVID-19-era ‘new normal’ in politicking, but the virtual rally for West Bengal that its leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah addressed on Tuesday (June 9), failed to attract as many eyeballs as the party expected.
The party had set a target to reach out to at least 60 lakh people across the state, but in the absence of Bihar-like LED blitzkrieg, the viewership did not go anywhere near the mark.
According to state BJP sources, only 40,000 people watched it on YouTube even after the party shared the Facebook and YouTube links of the rally with its 47 lakh registered members.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh, however, told reporters after the rally that lakhs of people watched the programme on their television sets as local channels beamed the rally live.
The party’s state leadership held a series of video conferences with its district units in the run up to the rally to ensure that at least 50 persons in each of the state’s about 78,000 booths get to watch the live streaming on YouTube or Facebook.
District leaders and functionaries, until Monday (June 8), were seen going and explaining to people how to watch the rally live on their mobile handsets. A few lakh volunteers also fanned out across the state with smartphones to help others watch the rally.
However, despite all these efforts, the party did not get an overwhelming response. And the BJP is now accusing the state government of disrupting internet and power services to prevent people from watching the live streaming of the rally.
Much before the rally kick-started, a BJP delegation, led by Bishnupur MP and BJYM state president Saumitra Khan, called on Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar around 9 am at Raj Bhavan with a complaint that in many areas internet services were snapped to prevent people from participating in the virtual meeting.
The state government, however, denied the allegations.
The party’s district units made similar allegation after the rally was over, although Shah, in a veiled challenge to the TMC during his address, had stated, “Mamata Didi, now you will not be able to stall permission for a meeting or landing of helicopter… With the help of technology, the BJP will reach every house in Bengal.”
Jalpaiguri MP Jayanta Kumar Roy and his supporters had to arrange a generator set to watch the rally on a giant screen as power supply was cut from 10 am in the morning in several blocks of the districts, alleged the BJP’s Jalpaiguri district chief, Bapi Goswami.
Goswami said the party received reports of similar incidents of power and internet disruptions from other districts too.
However, despite the limited success of the rally, the BJP’s model could be emulated by other parties in the poll-bound state as there is no indication that the spectre of coronavirus would go away anytime soon.
The ruling Trinamool Congress is also likely to take the virtual route for the July 21 rally that it organises every year in remembrance of the police firing on a rally led by Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata in 1993, during which several Youth Congress workers were killed.
“I don’t understand this hype about virtual or non-virtual. But we have already done video conferences. We will continue with that. But unlike BJP, we don’t have crores of money to spend on such rallies,” Banerjee said, adding that her party would soon decide how to “commemorate the Martyr’s Day.”