PATNA: A clarion call to end the BJP-led NDA government’s “misrule and lies about new India and achhe din in the country” as soon as possible was made by leaders of 17 non-BJP parties at a massive rally convened by RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav at Patna’s historic Gandhi Maidan on Sunday.
Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and rebel JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav were among top leaders from 17 non-BJP parties who addressed the rally christened ‘BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao’ (Banish BJP, Save India).
Venting their spleen against BJP and the NDA government in rousing speeches and lauding Lalu’s efforts to unite the Opposition, these leaders predicted the end of the BJP-led government in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. They appealed to the people to unseat the Narendra Modi government in the upcoming polls.
A jam-packed Gandhi Maidan, echoing with slogans from people, who came from all parts of Bihar despite the crippling two-week floods, left Mamata and Akhilesh impressed. Despite an intermittent drizzle, the huge crowd stayed put, listening to the speeches made by nearly 30 leaders over five and a half hours.
Bihar CM and JD(U) national president Nitish Kumar was the main target of the leaders at the rally for his “betrayal of Bihar’s mandate” by re-allying with BJP and for weakening Opposition unity in the country. The 21 leaders from 17 parties at the rally hit out at the BJP and its allies over burning issues such as farmer suicides, attacks on Muslims and the unemployment crisis.
Although Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi skipped the rally, the audience was made to hear a recorded message of the former, in which she criticised the NDA government. Three senior Congress leaders — Ghulam Nabi Azad, CP Joshi and Hanumantha Rao — attended the rally. Despite Lalu’s invitation, BSP chief Mayawati skipped the rally.
“Nitish Kumar betrayed Bihar’s people by allying with the BJP. In the next polls, Bihar people will teach the BJP and Nitish a lesson. Only RJD will rule Bihar,” said West Bengal CM and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee on Sunday. “He (Nitish) got votes due to Lalujee, yet he left… I trust Lalujee. He sticks to whatever he says,” she added.
Sharad Yadav, who shared the stage with Lalu despite JD(U)’s warning and risking expulsion, promised a pan-India grand alliance to counter the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Lalu and he were seen hugging each other on stage before the rally began.
“They (NDA) have completed three years in power, yet the problems faced by farmers and the youth remain unaddressed. The government’s claims of new India, digital India and good days are all lies…” said former UP chief minister and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav. “We want a nation of happy farmers and employed youth. GST and demonetisation have left many youth unemployed. The BJP must provide new employment figures,” he added.
Tejashwi Yadav, Lalu’s younger son and ex-Bihar deputy CM, attacked Nitish and Modi in the harshest terms. Referring to the CBI case of corruption against him and his family, he asked the crowd if he was guilty. “No,” came the resounding reply.
“They (central government) are trying to frighten us with these cases. Are we the type who would be frightened? I have Lalu’s blood flowing in my veins,” said Tejashwi. Ridiculing Nitish for his failed PM ambitions and dubbing him as betrayer of people’s mandate, he asked the people to avenge the wrongdoing in the next polls.
Lalu, apart from attacking Nitish and Modi, said the people will throw “these fascist, communal forces” out of power in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Accusing Nitish and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi of involvement in Bihar’s `1,000-crore Srijan NGO scam, both Lalu and Tejashwi demanded their resignation for a fair probe.
Notable among the other top leaders who addressed the rally were former Jharkhand CMs Hemant Soren of JMM and Babulal Marandi of JVM; RLD chief Ajit Singh’s son Jayant Singh; Tariq Anwar of NCP; DMK’s TKS Elangovan; K Josh Mani of Kerala Congress; Badruddin Ajmal of Assam-based AIUDF; Ali Mohammad Sagar of National Conference and Danish Ali of JD(S). The BJP and JD(U) leaders described the rally as a congregation of parties that support corruption of the kind Lalu and his family are charged with.