Rally tussle: Sushil Modi and (right) Gandhi Maidan
Patna, Sept. 9: The district administration today bowed under pressure from the BJP and rolled back its decision to allot half of the historic Gandhi Maidan to the party for hosting Hunkar Rally slated for October 27 within hours.
The BJP office received a letter from the district administration this morning, seeking consent from the party to host its mega rally only on the western side of the Maidan because the education department would organise a book fair on the other half from October 20 to November 11. The letter had the signature of an additional district magistrate-rank officer.
Immediately after the party received the letter, its leaders raised a hue and cry over the issue. Senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi claimed that the BJP had sought permission to host the rally to be addressed by the party’s probable prime ministerial candidate, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, four months ago and the district administration had no problem then.
Terming it a ploy of chief minister Nitish Kumar to create hurdles for Narendra Modi, the BJP’s protest against the district administration’s letter grew louder as the day progressed. In the evening, Patna district magistrate N. Saravana Kumar clarified that the party had been allotted the entire Gandhi Maidan to host the rally.
Saravana said: “There was a correspondence with the BJP regarding organising a book fair at the Gandhi Maidan. But I have allotted the entire ground to the BJP for the rally as they had applied four months ago. I cannot say if the book fair would be cancelled or not. It is for the education department to take a call.”
Education minister P.K. Shahi told The Telegraph that an announcement was made last year about hosting a book fair in Gandhi Maidan from October 20 to November 11. “But we have not received any proposal from any organisation so far for hosting the event,” he said, stressing that he was unaware of what the district magistrate had ordered.
Visibly angry after receiving the district administration’s letter, Sushil Kumar Modi pointed out that the party had applied for Gandhi Maidan for the event more than four months ago, before the NDA split. “At that time, the district administration had no objection. But today the district administration has sent us a letter, stating that we would be given half the Maidan because some exhibition would be hosted at the same time.”
Referring to the episode of the Mahabharat in which the Kauravas had to concede the entire Hastinapur to the Pandavas after the former refused to give five villages, he said: “Chief minister Nitish Kumar is trying to create hurdles for Narendra Modi. But we are steadfast on our resolve to hold the rally at the Gandhi Maidan. Nitish will have to concede entire Bihar to us for this.”
The Hunkar Rally is a mega event planned by the BJP. The party leaders are working overtime to make it the mother of all BJP rallies in Bihar.
The BJP’s probable prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi would address the rally. It would signify the Gujarat chief minister’s physical entry into Bihar politics, a territory he had been virtually banned from entering during the BJP-JD(U) alliance days.
A senior BJP leader said: “We plan to make this rally larger than any rally held by either the BJP or the JD(U). Let the state government impose any condition, we will go ahead with the Hunkar Rally. It will virtually kick off our campaign for the Lok Sabha polls.”
The education department had withdrawn its permission to the BJP to hold its workers’ meet at Miller School grounds soon after the BJP and the JD(U) snapped ties. The party had to shift its venue of the meeting at the last moment though the chief minister had intervened and allowed the party to hold its function at the grounds.
But in case of Hunkar Rally, the BJP can hardly afford to change the venue. “Half of the Maidan is used to erect tents and other facilities for the participants of the rally,” said a BJP leader.