The Bengal unit of the BJP has hired four special trains at a cost of Rs 53 lakh to bring in party workers and supporters to fill the iconic Brigade Ground where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address a public rally, a Bangla news daily Anandabazar Patrika reported.

The Brigade Ground is as iconic as it is unforgiving. On one hand, political rallies at the venue — where Mamata Banerjee held her united opposition rally — is emblematic of a party’s strength, on the other hand, the vastness of the venue implies that any empty spaces in the middle get amplified, said party leaders.

Beginning from the Left since 1977 and Banerjee from 2011, a rally at the venue comes hand-in-hand with careful planning that can often go on for six months. For the Bengal BJP, which was told last week that the Prime Minister would be heading to Kolkata and Siliguri for the rally, this was a challenge, admitted leaders.

A state committee leader told News18, “This is perhaps the first time in the history of the state’s politics that any party has been able to fill up this venue so quickly, in such little time. Last week, we didn’t even have posters out on the streets.” 

BJP sources added that the Brigade Ground rally requires permission from not just the Kolkata police but also the Indian Army and the Election Commission — none of which were in place when the BJP announced its rallies.

The four special trains will reach Howrah Station from Jhargram, Lalgola and Rampurhat, reported Anandabazar Patrika. The state BJP added that supporters were also coming in from different parts of South Bengal, particularly South 24 Parganas district. 

The report added that a few days ago, the train was booked through ‘Flat Tariff Rate’ that is a fixed rent. A railway official told Anandabazar Patrika, “Four special trains were booked by BJP as per EC guidelines. These are general class trains and that they will be returned to specific destinations after the rally, along with the supporters.”

Meanwhile, the venue for PM Modi’s public rally on Tuesday in Siliguri had to be changed at the last minute, allegedly because the West Bengal government denied permission for the location sought by the BJP. The new venue will now be a ground belonging to the Indian Railways, adjacent to the New Jalpaiguri Railway Station.

This is not the first time the BJP has accused the TMC government of denying permission to hold public meetings and the landing of helicopters of BJP chief ministers and Union ministers. 

“We wanted to hold Prime Minister’s public meeting in the Kawakhali Ground, which belongs to Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority (SJDA). Unfortunately, the local administration refused to give us permission. The ruling party is misusing its power to create hurdles before us,” Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh told News18. 

In response to Modi’s rallies, Mamata Banerjee preponed her campaign schedule by a day to kick off her public rally on Wednesday at Dinhata in Cooch Behar district