| President Pranab Mukherjee at Calcutta airport on Thursday. He was on his way to Mirati in Bengal to celebrate Durga Puja with his family. (PTI) |
President Pranab Mukherjee has cut short his Bihar visit by a day, much to the relief of BJP leaders who were worried that the tour would scuttle Narendra Modi’s “Hunkar (roar) Rally” in Patna on October 27.
While Rashtrapati Bhavan said the decision was taken after organisers at Ara, where Mukherjee was to unveil Babu Jagjivan Ram’s statute on October 27, postponed the event, sources said it might have happened after the state BJP unit wrote to the President requesting him to reschedule his trip to Bihar.
“While the President will address the IIT convocation on October 26, he will not stay over in Patna and return to Delhi on the same day as the programme in Ara has been cancelled at the request of the organisers,” an official from the President’s press secretariat told The Telegraph.
Mukherjee mentioned his revised schedule to BJP MPs from Bihar, Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Shahnawaz Hussain, who met him today. The President is expected to reach Patna around 4pm and leave after about two hours.
The leaders, however, insisted that the meeting was not aimed at convincing the President to change his plans.
“This (President’s revised programme) was decided beforehand. Our meeting was not intended around the issue. We had only gone there for a courtesy visit as he has just returned from a trip to Belgium and Turkey and is coming to our state later this month. He told us he won’t be in the state on the rally day. It would be a matter of pride for us that we will welcome the President one day and the future Prime Minister the next day,” said Hussain, the BJP’s national spokesperson.
The BJP had earlier accused chief minister Nitish Kumar of creating hurdles by scheduling the President’s programme on the day Modi is set to address a big crowd in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan.
The party had alleged that Nitish had deliberately invited the President on October 27 to scuttle the rally which had been scheduled months in advance.
Meanwhile, sources said the President might have changed his plans to avoid the controversial situation after the BJP started blaming the JD(U) for clashing of the events.
“The President had given an indication during a meeting with party delegates a few days ago which suggested that that he might shift the dates after it emerged that his visit would coincide with the rally. It is obvious that he wants to avoid a messy situation and his presence would have required extensive security arrangements and sanitisation of various routes, which is difficult on a rally day when a massive crowd is expected to gather at the venue,” a party insider said.
Nitish said the arrangements for the President’s visit would be made in accordance with the programme. “I had said that the President’s programme had come from the President’s house and any rescheduling can take place from President’s house,” he said.