| LK Advani at the Banka rally on Monday. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Barahat (Banka), April 14: BJP patriarch L.K. Advani today appealed to the electorate to strengthen Narendra Modi’s hands and make him the Prime Minster for a stronger India in the 21st century, setting all controversies to rest.
“The progress of the country stands stalled because of the UPA’s misrule. The country will be on the fast track of progress, prosperity and strength if you support Modi to become the Prime Minister,” Advani said, addressing a rally for the first time in Bihar after his anti-corruption rath yatra in 2011.
In a way, Advani put to rest the controversy triggered by his description of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate (Modi) merely as an “event manager” at his Gandhinagar rally recently.
The Congress and other rivals chirped that Modi did not have the “approval” from Advani to become the Prime Minister. Setting that record straight, Advani today attacked the chief minister, Nitish Kumar, for the first time. While describing Nitish as a “betrayer”, he sounded in tune with Modi and Bihar BJP leaders on this front.
Recalling how he had invited Nitish to the BJP national executive session ahead of the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, Advani said: “The NDA has given opportunity to many leaders to become what they are today. But in return, the leaders like Nitish betrayed us. We have maintained our dharma with friendship. But the elections, this time around, will show him (read Nitish) the results of the betrayal.”
Advani addressed a rally of an appreciable and responsive crowd of around 8,000 people at a small ground near the Barhat block office in the Banka Lok Sabha constituency from where Putul Kumari Singh, the widow of former Banka MP Digvijay Singh, is seeking re-election as the BJP candidate. The ground was packed to its size with people listening to Advani patiently under the blazing sun.
Contrary to Modi’s rallies in Bihar — by and large devoid of the presence of the Muslims — Advani’s rally drew appreciable crowd from the minority community. Several of them were appreciative of and respectful to Advani.
“We feel that the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-L.K. Advani era was nice and kind to us. We hope that Modi will work under Advaniji’s guidance, giving the minorities a fair treatment. Advaniji is a seasoned statesman. We are looking up to him,” Mohammad Jafar, a fruit-seller at Bounsi who attended the rally, told The Telegraph.
Advani also carried on with his scathing attack on the Manmohan Singh government but in a polished manner.
“My friends have invariably prevented me from being caustic on Manmohan because he is a gentleman by nature. But I hold the view that he has kept mum on large-scale corruption ailing his government. Now, Sanjaya Baru’s book has exposed his silence on corruption. It has buttressed my belief that Manmohan is a week Prime Minister.”
He attacked the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, and the UPA dispensation as a whole, pushing India into a quagmire of inefficiency, policy paralysis and backwardness. He predicted a doom for the Congress-led UPA in the ensuing elections.
Advani was more sarcastic on the RJD boss, Lalu Prasad, than critical. “I always get excited about visiting Bihar. It is because Lalu had got me arrested on my way to Ayodhya. That event had changed the political course of India, helping the BJP to emerge what it is today.”
Describing the Vajpayee-led NDA era as the “golden period” in Indian history, Advani said Vajpayee had initiated several measures to strengthen the country’s infrastructure. “But Sonia Gandhi demeaned the PM’s office by making Manmohan a puppet in her hands and derailing the process of growth and development.”
Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad and the party candidate from Banka Putul were among others accompanying Advani on the dais.
lBanka votes on April 24