Amid galaxy of Opposition leaders gathered for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s United India Rally in Kolkata, Gujarat Patidar leader Hardik Patel was the first speaker at the mega convention. In his opening remark, Patel invoked Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and said that while Netaji had given a call to fight against the 'goro' (Britishers) "we are fighting against 'choro' (thieves)." The young Gujarat leader thanked West Bengal Chief Minister for bringing all major opposition leaders on one platform and pointing towards 'jansailab' (mass gathering) said it was an indication that BJP is on its way out of power.
Leaders of all the opposition parties except the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the CPI(M)-led Left Front are taking part in the rally, which the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has said will sound the "death knell" for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
"Only few hours to go for the historic 'United India Rally' at the Brigade Parade Grounds. I welcome all national leaders, supporters and lakhs of people to participate in today's rally to pledge to build a stronger, progressive and united India #UnitedIndiaAtBrigade," Banerjee, who is also the TMC chief, said in a tweet earlier in the day.
More than 20 national leaders, including former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, his son and Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, Sharad Pawar, Farooq Abdullah, Sharad Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav, Hemant Soren and former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Gegong Apang, reached Kolkata on Friday to take part in the rally.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is also attending the rally.
Although Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati will not attend the rally, senior party leader Satish Chandra Mishra will be present on her behalf.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi too has extended his support to the rally. Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Abhishek Manu Singhvi are expected to represent the Congress at the rally.
Large-scale preparations have been made to ensure that the rally turns out to be massive success. Besides the huge stages, 20 watchtowers have been erected and 1,000 microphones and 30 LED screens put up so that the spectators can see the leaders and hear them speak clearly.
As many as 10,000 security personnel have been deployed in and around the venue of the rally and around 400 police pickets have been set up to ensure foolproof security, the police said.
Lakhs of TMC supporters and workers have started arriving in the city from all over the state.
Vehicular movement around the venue has been restricted, the police said.