PATNA: Floods of people poured in to Bihar’s capital on Saturday, most of them RJD supporters, to add heft to Sunday’s ‘BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao’ rally organised by their leader Lalu Prasad Yadav, bringing together 21 leaders from 17 non-NDA parties. So what if Sonia, Rahul and Mayawati won’t grace the occasion.
Yadav, refusing to be bogged down by corruption charges against his family and the 'betrayal' of erstwhile partner Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the JD(U), which pushed him out of power in the State, seeks to showcase his political might at the ‘Banish BJP, Save India’ rally on Sunday, and it seems he will be successful.
Though both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi have chosen to stay away, other top political leaders, including West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, rebel JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, Samajwadi Party chief and former UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, CPI general secretary Sudhakar Rao and CPI MP D Raja will take part in the rally at the historic Gandhi Maidan in the heart of Patna tomorrow.
It’s not as if the Congress, the largest among the Opposition parties, has boycotted the event, however. Though the high-command of the party will not be in attendance, senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, CP Joshi and Hanumantha Rao will represent the grand old party, said RJD sources. BSP chief Mayawati, on the other hand, who had earlier decided to join the gathering of opposition leaders, has changed her mind. And, it seems, she will not be sending her confidant and party MP Satish Chandra Mishra either, contrary to Lalu’s statement yesterday.
As for the others who make the list of 21 leaders, there are former Jharkhand chief ministers Hemant Soren of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Babulal Marandi of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM), RLD party chief Ajit Singh’s son Jayant Singh, and NCP MP from Bihar’s Katihar Tariq Anwar.
From the South, the DMK would be represented by its MP TKS Elangovan while Jose K Mani would attend the event on behalf of the Kerala Congress, said RJD leaders. Badruddin Ajmal of Assam-based AIUDF, Ali Mohammad Sagar of National Conference (NC) and Danish Ali of JD(S) are among other senior leaders who will join the rally on Sunday.
A rally is no rally without a crowd large enough to make an impact, and Lalu, who is known to be a master at organising mega rallies in previous years, has claimed that about 25 lakh people from across the state would be present. RJD legislators and functionaries are said to have worked tirelessly, holding public meetings to mobilise the crowd in the past three months since Lalu announced the mega rally in May to combat the rising tide of saffron forces.
Patna’s streets are swathed in green, RJD’s trademark colour, and its electoral symbol — the lantern — shone bright as enthusiastic party workers welcomed people arriving from far-off districts. “Many thousands will reach on Sunday morning. The floods (from incessant rainfall in which 418 people died in the state) have made it difficult for many to reach Patna,” said RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwari.
Setbacks such as corruption cases registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation against Lalu and his family members, the massive floods that ravaged parts of Bihar over the past two weeks, and the last-minute reluctance by some top leaders to attend the rally — nothing could stop the RJD chief from holding the event on the scheduled date. Not even the best bids by Bihar’s ruling JD(U) and the BJP. Leaders of the ruling parties of the state kept ridiculing Lalu for trying to gather the scattered Opposition for a unity rally, saying it was the RJD chief’s ploy to smoke-screen the corruption cases. They even cried hoarse about his insensitivity to the over one crore people hit by the floods.
When BJP leader and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi appealed to him to postpone the rally, the imperturbable Lalu responded, “Will the floods end if we reschedule the rally?”