Empty chairs greet Narendra Modi at Bhuj rally

Vol 21, PW 5 (30 Nov 17) People & Policy

With just days left until Gujarat goes to the polls, Narendra Modi must have felt his heart sink when he saw a sea of empty white plastic chairs at a public meeting he attended in BJP stronghold Bhuj on November 27.

The sprawling Lalan College grounds weren't completely empty - some estimate that about 25,000 people turned up to hear Modi speak - but video footage seen by this report also shows vast numbers of empty chairs stretching into the distance, which undoubtedly had a psychological impact. Well-placed sources say arrangements had been made for 100,000 people to attend the event at Bhuj, which lies roughly 55-km north of the 5m t/y Mundra LNG terminal, and is also infamous as the site of a massive earthquake in 2001 which killed nearly 20,000 people.

Modi took to the microphone at around 11.30am after receiving floral garlands. "Modi is used to packed houses," says a source.

"Seeing hundreds of empty chairs is likely to have put him in a bad mood." What worries supporters is Modi seems to be losing appeal. "People once loved his speeches," a party worker tells us.

"But now they are becoming monotonous." On the same day in the afternoon at Dhari, a town in Gujarat's Amreli district, it was a similar sad story with only 7000 people showing up to hear Modi speak when 40,000 were expected.

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