The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Song and dance before Laloo’s lathi

Patna, April 29: Patna turned into a song-and-dance capital on the eve of Laloo Prasad Yadav’s lathi rally.

Live music shows regaled Rashtriya Janata Dal supporters overcrowding the pandals as the sprawling ministerial and MLA bungalows began to resemble discos. Pandals on Kautilya Road, Strand Road and Polo Road wore a glitzy look and resonated with pop and Bhojpuri folk songs.

There were popular Bhojpuri songs from Monoj Tiwari, Baleswar Yadav and Ajit Kumar Akela whose numbers like “Khailu tiranga pharke, goria ja jharke” made the crowd come alive. There were also Bollywood singers like Altaf Raja singing “Tum to tehare pardesi”.

Subhas Yadav, chief minister Rabri Devi’s brother, arranged to have 2,000 people at his sprawling bungalow and hired Akela and On Mausumi Orchestra for the occasion. Sadhu Yadav , another brother and MLA from Gopalgunj, hired Bhojpuri folk singer Baleswar Yadav. Minister Abdul Bari Sidique hired Altaf Raja. It was in his house that Laloo Prasad released one of Raja’s cassettes. Monoj Tiwari was singing for law minister Shakil Ahmed Khan. The crowds hopped from one pandal to another to hear their favourite singers.

Elsewhere, the rallyists began to trickle into the city from afternoon. Trucks and buses ferrying villagers from the districts were accompanied by bands as they headed to the pandals.

About 50,000 people, carrying sticks on their shoulder had already entered the city by 6 pm. Some got down from the buses to walk through the mammoth arches and gates set up for the rally.

Although the RJD has said it does not expect any trouble, police are not taking chances. The director-general of police instructed all inspectors-general to set up control rooms in all districts to monitor the movement of the trucks. Police have been deployed at all strategic points.

Minister of state for health Akhilesh Singh said four medical clinics have been set up in the Gandhi Maidan area and six mobile medical vans would be at hand to attend to the rallyists. He said 62,000 oral rehydration vials have been kept ready to treat anyone overcome by the sun.

The rally is aimed to turn up the heat on the BJP and the RSS. “I am the commander of the rally and my war on BJP will be renewed by this rally. The lathi is a symbolic weapon — foxes and mad dogs run away on seeing it,” Laloo Yadav said. The BJP has decided to hit back by calling for a Bihar bandh tomorrow.

But the rally seems to have alienated coalition ally Congress. No Congress leader has joined the anti-BJP tirade. Shakil Ahmed, state president and a minister, said: “We will have our own way of fighting the BJP. We will start our agitational programme later”.

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