Indian Railways got a boost to its business, thanks to former railway minister Lalu Prasad, whose party Rashtriya Janata Dal has hired 13 special trains to ferry workers and supporters to Patna for his Parivartan Rally here May 15.
Over the past week, the RJD chief and his top party leaders have been busy mobilising supporters to reach Patna for the rally by the special trains.
"Please, come with sattu, litti-chikha, chura and gur, (all edible things) to the Parivartan (change) Rally in Patna. We will arrange free drinking water for all of you," Lalu Prasad has been appealing, in chaste Hindi, and sometimes in Bhojpuri and other local dialects.
According to RJD leaders, the party's MPs and legislators have booked 13 special trains from various parts of Bihar and Jharkhand to ferry supporters to the rally. Eight special trains were booked in the East Central Railway and five in Eastern Railway.
"RJD is paying Indian Railways for booking the special trains. The railways will earn a hefty amount for running the trains. It is not free of cost," RJD senior leader Ram Kirpal Yadav, considered close to Lalu Prasad, said.
"When Lalu was railway minister in 2007, the RJD booked 35 trains for his Chetawani (warning) Rally in Patna. Now out of power, RJD has booked over a dozen trains for the rally," another RJD leader said.
Last year, Bihar's ruling Janata Dal-United had hired half a dozen special trains for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Adhikar (rights) Rally in Patna.
An official of East Central Railway (ECR) said the railways had drawn up an action plan to run special trains on May 14-15. "We have made elaborate arrangements for smooth running of passenger trains as well as long-distance trains," he said.
The ECR has borrowed coaches from different zones because of shortage of coaches in view of several Puja special trains running throughout the country.
Several senior railway officials have been deputed to supervise the arrangement of special trains for the rally. Hundreds of railway officials, including travelling ticket examiners (TTEs), station masters and traffic inspectors, would be deployed to manage the smooth running of these specials.
"The Parivartan Rally will set a new record, as over one million people are expected to attend it," an RJD leader said.
Lalu is known for organising massive rallies in the past to deliver a political message to his supporters and rivals alike.
"With two days left for the rally, all eyes are on his rally because the turnout will indicate whether his support base is still intact and people really want change," Satyanarain Madan, a political activist, said.