INDIA bloc leaders sound poll bugle at Patna rally


PTI, Mar 3, 2024, 5:39 PM IST

Credit: X / @Kharge

Patna: The opposition bloc INDIA virtually sounded the bugle for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls on Sunday when top leaders, including Rahul Gandhi of the Congress, converged in the Bihar capital for a mammoth rally.

Gandhi, who had flown down from Madhya Pradesh, taking a break from his ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’, spoke before handing over the mic to AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge and returning for the mass outreach programme.

The former Congress president made a brief, about 15-minute-long, speech and charged the Narendra Modi government at the Centre with ”working for only two-three super-rich people and neglecting Dalits and backward classes who comprise 73 per cent of the population”.

Kharge, after whom the ‘Jan Vishwas Maha Rally’ was signed off by RJD president Lalu Prasad, lambasted Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for his recent volte-face.

Lauding Prasad’s son and heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav for ensuring that jobs were created on a large scale during the 17-month-period the latter occupied the deputy CM’s post, Kharge said ”Your chacha (referring to Nitish Kumar) has done a flip-flop. He may do so again. But do not accept him henceforth.” Notably, Kumar, who heads the JD(U), had allied with RJD-Congress and Left combine in 2022, snapping ties with the BJP which he accused of trying to engineer a split in his own party.

He played a key role in the formation of the INDIA bloc, though after returning to the NDA, he has been claiming that he was never happy with the way things moved forward in the opposition coalition and that even the acronym did not have his approval.

The most caustic attacks on the Bihar CM, however, came from Lalu Prasad, his arch-rival, who signed off his speech in style, asking the crowds to ”be prepared for the upcoming elections. I will be there to boost your morale as you vote to drive out Prime Minister Narendra Modi from power at the Centre”.

Recalling Kumar’s first volte face in 2017, the RJD president said, ”I had not hurled any abuses at Nitish Kumar back then, only called him ‘palturam’ (turncoat). The label has stuck to his persona by virtue of his own deeds. I can see funny videos about him on social media and wonder whether these do not drive him to shame.” The wily leader had recently fished in the Bihar NDA’s troubled waters by claiming his ”doors were always open” for the JD(U) boss, who has aligned with the BJP despite the party maintaining that it will pursue the ambition of forming its own government in Bihar.

At the rally, however, Prasad said Kumar would get a ”dhakka (shove)” if he again came to him after growing uneasy with the BJP.

Prasad, who has been weathered down by old age and poor health, showered his affection on Tejashwi and elder son Tej Pratap Yadav, besides his daughters, including Singapore-based Rohini Acharya, while lambasting the prime minister for criticising ”parivarvad (dynastic rule)” in politics.

Known for pulling no punches, the RJD supremo said, ”What can we do if Narendra Modi does not have a family of his own? He keeps bragging about the Ram temple. He is not even a true Hindu. In Hindu tradition, a son must get his head and beard shaved upon the demise of his parent. Modi did not do so when his mother died.” Also present at the rally was M V Shreyams Kumar, former Rajya Sabha member and RJD’s Kerala unit chief, who had flown down from the southern state.

Those who addressed the rally earlier included Samajwadi Party president and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who shared a picture, on X, of himself seated with Tejashwi Yadav and Rahul Gandhi captioned ”great thrones are shaken when enthusiastic youngsters come together (jab joshile naujawan mil jaate hain, bade bade takht hil jaate hain)”.

In his short speech, Yadav, who has reached a seat-sharing agreement with Congress in his state, said, ”UP and Bihar together have 120 seats. If we ensure the BJP’s rout in these two states, the party will not be able to form the government at the Centre.” Left leaders like Sitaram Yechury, D Raja and Dipankar Bhattacharya, general secretaries of CPI(M), CPI and CPI(ML) respectively, denounced the Narendra Modi government’s policies, alleging these were only benefiting big businesses, even as they praised Tejashwi Yadav’s emphasis on job creation.

Tejashwi Yadav, whose just concluded state-wide ‘Jan Vishwas Yatra’ saw its culmination in the rally, broke into a Bollywood number to taunt Nitish Kumar who ”sometimes goes here, sometimes there and slips (idhar chala kabhi udhar chala… phisal gaya)”.

The rally attracted a huge crowd, with many supporters of the RJD reaching the city on Saturday night and putting up at tents erected at various places where sumptuous meals were on offer.

People had started pouring in at the Gandhi Maidan since early morning and even though the heavens opened, most of them stayed till the rally concluded in the evening.

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