LOSING FOCUS As Lalu Struggles, BJP Dubs His Patna Gathering ‘Rally of the Corrupt’
Mamata yet to speak to RJD chief after collapse of his govt with Nitish
Patna: August 27 was set to be a red-letter day for the anti-BJP Mahagatbandhan parties. Rattled by back-to-back raids and allegations of corruption against himself and his kin, it was to be Lalu Prasad’s moment of defiance, rallying a united opposition and challenging the Centre. But, with Nitish Kumar doing a ‘ghar wapsi’ by joining hands with the BJP and eventually failing the idea of a Mahagathbandhan, the “Swabhiman rally” or “BJP Hatao Desh Banchao” rally, of Lalu is now reduced to more of a show of strength against his once ‘secular’ mascot.
Invitations have been sent out to important leaders of national politics. But the BJP is not far behind in its attempt to counter Lalu and foil his plans. A concerted attempt has begun in Bihar with the saffron party claiming that the August 27 rally will be nothing more than a “congregation of the corrupt” and anyone sharing dais is also a part of the tribe.
“This rally should actually be c a l l e d a s Benami S a mpatt i Banchao rally. Parties like the SP, BSP, TMC and Congress, which have serious corruption charges against them, have joined hands to make the rally successful. They are using the word secularism to shield corruption,” said deputy chief minister and senior BJP leader Sushil Modi.
KC Tyagi, the national general secretary of Nitish’s Janata Dal(U), echoed Modi. “One can see the individual who is organising the rally. From his name, it is very clear what this will turn out to be. What kind of politics is this? For how long, this politics of loot will be allowed,” he said. “In Bihar, even if a person goes to jail for committing heinous crime, his community people would support him, saying tum age bado, hum tumhare saath hain. But nobody will ask that person to explain his crime. None asked Lalu how he accumulated such benami properties.” Now, what remains to be seen is who all will finally end up sharing the dais with Lalu. His Rashtriya Janata Dal has been investing all its money and energy to make the rally successful by bringing in as many as national leaders of the Opposition bloc on the podium as possible. It has also launched an extensive campaign through social networking sites.
The biggest coup the Lalu camp is aiming for is getting senior JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav to attend the rally and join the RJD. The veteran politician has kept his cards close to his chest. A close aide of Yadav said he has yet to take a final call, though RJD leaders in Patna have announced his presence in the rally.
“Sharad ji will address a meeti ng of opposition par t i e s at Delhi’s constitutional club on August 17 … Following the meeting, he will announce his decision,” his aide added. However, senior JDU leaders said Yadav would never join the RJD.
West Bengal chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, the first to announce support for the rally through Twitter, has over the last 10 days maintained a stoic silence over the collapse of the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar. Even though, all opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Sitaram Yechuri and others spoke to Lalu after his recent political debacle, Banerjee is the one who has yet to talk to him, said a senior RJD leader, a close confidant of Lalu.
He further added, before the fall of Mahagathbandhan, Banerjee had requested Lalu to postpone the rally by a day, citing another commitment she had in her state. But Lalu refused it saying the announcements were made and the Gandhi Maidan (the venue in Patna) was booked. Derek O’Brien, the national spokesperson of the party, confirmed to ET that the Bengal CM would attend the rally in Patna.