- POSTED: 15 Jan 2014 16:43
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With India's general elections just months away, two leading political parties are going to elaborate lengths to make sure their rallies are as large and loud as possible.
INDIA: With India's general elections just months away, two leading political parties are going to elaborate lengths to make sure their rallies are as large and loud as possible.
In a contest where perceptions of popularity are crucial, huge numbers of dedicated political supporters are being transported on long journeys straight to rally sites -- by rail.
India's rail network is vast, and carries tens of millions of people every day.
And in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, it is about to get just a little bit busier.
The two political parties -- the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- are now climbing onboard, taking advantage of the region's extensive infrastructure to hand deliver their supporters to the site of crucial mass rallies.
They have made extensive arrangements in a bid to outdo each other in terms of crowds attending these events.
The BSP has booked 19 special trains to ferry people from across the state for party chief Mayawati's massive birthday rally.
The BJP has gone even further.
Vijay Bahadur Pathak, BJP leader, said: "We have got nearly 27 trains booked to ferry BJP workers. We prefer trains as a mode of transport so that more people turn up for the rally.
“Also, trains are way more convenient and comfortable for people coming from faraway places."
The organising parties have made provisions to increase the number of carriages normally permitted on the trains, and set up special ticket counters to help ease congestion at railway stations.
Ram Vilas Paswan, former railway minister, said: “Supposed there is a big rally and many people are expected to turn up -- then some special changes are made in the route and special arrangements are also made at the railway station to control the crowd and prevent any untoward incident."
The journeys will typically take between 12 and 14 hours, though many supporters will travel from even further afield, with their parties bearing the full cost of the trip.
The total outlay for these extra services is expected to be US$1.2 million -- proof of just how far political parties will go to win over Uttar Pradesh, which is a critical battleground in the upcoming election.
Uttar Pradesh is a make or break state, particularly for BJP hopeful Narendra Modi, where community loyalties are strong and political awareness is high.
All major political parties in Uttar Pradesh are striving to make their rallies a success.
And with this rail strategy in place, the state's reputation as an arena for shows of strength is only being further enhanced.