| Battle for votes: Lalu and Narendra |
Patna, Feb. 10: Lalu Prasad plans to take on Narendra Modi head-on by addressing a public meeting in Muzaffarpur on March 3, the day the BJP proposes to hold a mega rally at the same place.
“We would apply to the district administration to allot us either the ground of Muzaffarpur Institute of Technology (MIT) or the one near the police lines,” said RJD MP Ram Kripal Yadav, claiming that it made no difference to his party if Modi addresses his public meeting in the same city at the same time.
He claimed that Lalu’s rally would be larger than that of Modi.
The BJP, on the other hand, remains unfazed by Lalu’s move. “It is a democracy. Anyone has the right to address a meeting any time. It’s up to the district administration to take care of the security arrangements. We had announced Modi’s rally in Muzaffarpur on March 3 about a week ago. Laluji has made a decision after that. On any other day, Laluji might have drawn a crowd of around 5,000 people. On March 3, he may not even get a crowd to listen to him,” said the state BJP chief, Mangal Pandey, stressing that his party would not change the date of the rally.
On February 8, the BJP applied for the MIT ground, the police lines field and the Awasiya field. All the three are next to each other. The district administration is yet to officially allot a ground for the Modi rally. Given the fact that the state government faced a lot of flak for security lapses in the arrangements made for Hunkar Rally on October 27 last year, the district administration is already in a lot of pressure for March 3. It is putting up a brave face for the possible arrival of Lalu on the same date.
“We have no problem in making arrangements for the two leaders. The MIT principal has to give its permission for the use of its ground,” said Muzaffarpur district magistrate Anupam Kumar.
Lalu’s move to address a public meeting on the same day as Modi’s rally, said RJD leaders, is aimed at sending a message to anti-Modi voters that it was he and not Nitish Kumar who can take on Modi in Bihar.
“It’s not about the size of the crowd. It’s about giving a message that Lalu is the only leader who is ready to take on Modi’s might at the grassroot level,” said a senior RJD leader, pointing out that the move was aimed more at the JD(U) than the BJP.
The RJD chief has often said “Nitish is no factor” and the battle in the Lok Sabha polls would be between him and the BJP. Strategically, Muzaffarpur is the second largest city after the state capital and was once acknowledged a stronghold of the RJD, which it lost to the BJP-JD(U) combine.
During his speech at Gandhi Maidan on October 27, Modi had tried to lure the core votes of Lalu, the Yadavs. He declared that he (Modi) came from the land of Dwarka, the home of Lord Krishna, and had a natural claim over the Yadavs in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The BJP are hoping for a section of the Yadav votes in the state.
“This move of Lalu would also give the Yadavs a clear message that they should stick with Lalu,” said another senior RJD leader.