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Gaya craves for stars, skips rallies

Election rallies in Gaya are not drawing crowds like before with the sole exception of the BJP prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, addressed recently.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar, BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan have addressed rallies at different places in the district. But the turnout was never higher than 5,000. Modiís rally at Gandhi Maidan here drew over 30,000 people.

Another striking feature of rallies has been poor participation by women. Even at Modiís rally, there were not more than 200 women. Strangely, there were more women at the other rallies. The one encouraging aspect has been a good presence of young voters, aged 18 to 35 years, at these rallies.

According to Dharmantiya Devi, 53, of Belaganj Block, 20km north of Gaya, many more women wanted to hear Modi speak at the March 27 rally, but a Maoist bandh call deterred them. She was among 13 people from her neighbourhood who braved it.

Malti Singh, a post-graduate in history from Hasanpur near Chakand, said educated women take little interest in election speeches. Most women who attend rallies are downtrodden and are taken to the venue by party workers.

As there was no public transport during Modiís Gaya rally, Sandeep Kumar of Bankebazaar travelled around 50km on his bike. He attributes the poor rally turnouts to the absence of star campaigners. He said: ďWeíve been listening to Bihar leaders for a long time. They will enumerate their achievements or target their opponents. They have nothing new to say. Iíve read in newspapers that Rahul Gandhi is arriving in Aurangabad on April 1, Sonia Gandhi in Sasaram on April 3 and Narendra Modi in Nawada on April 2. Sachin Tendulkar, too, is to address a rally in Aurangabad. But these star campaigners do not have a date with Gaya.Ē

Rajiv Kumar Sharma, a bullion trader in Gaya town and Mukesh Dutt Tiwari, a businessman, said they want to see new faces and hear something new. Or, they could always watch highlights of the rallies on television. Why waste time?

Ever since Nitish kicked off his campaign from Karmauni in Dobhi block of Gaya district on March 25, he has addressed campaign meetings at Chakand, Dangra Maidan in Mohanpur block, Pakribarawan in Nawada and at Raniganj Bazaar in Imamganj block of Aurangabad parliamentary constituency.

Sushil Modi has addressed meetings at Belaganj and Khisersarai (in Jehanabad). Paswan addressed campaign meetings at Sherghati and Fatehpur. Lalu has addressed meetings at Dobhi, Belaganj and at Rafiganj.