|A heavily-bandaged Ravi Shankar Prasad in the helicopter at Patna airport. Picture by Deepak Kumar
Patna, Oct. 6: Two words into his campaign address today, Pramod Mahajan was struck speechless as he saw a man, country-made pistols in both hands, jump onto the dais.
As the BJP leader was thrown to the floor by party workers, he heard a “sound like a cracker” and a cry of pain. Candidate Rameshwar Chaurasia had ducked out of the way and the man behind him, former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, was clutching his blood-splattered left arm.
A hitched 20-km ride in a passing Ambassador brought the leaders from campaign venue Nokha to Sasaram, where Prasad received first aid.
A helicopter ride later, he was recovering at a surgeon’s clinic in Patna following minor surgery to extract the pellets. His arm is broken at several places.
At Nokha, poll candidate Chaurasia ' one of those who have petitioned the Supreme Court to revive the dissolved Assembly ' grabbed the gunman and snatched one of his pistols before the BJP mob took over.
They thrashed him with chairs and sticks till the man, presumed dead, was brought by police for a post-mortem in Sasaram, when he suddenly started breathing. He is in a coma and might not survive, doctors said.
The attacker has been identified as Munna Rai alias Hulchul Rai. A note was found in his pocket, indicating “he was of unsound mind and was on a suicide mission”, Rohtas district magistrate Vivek Singh said.
Rai wrote he was certain to die (after the attack) but it would be for a “great cause”. At one place he claimed to be a Vishwa Hindu Parishad supporter and described politicians as “satta ke dalal (power brokers)”, Singh said.
Mahajan said: “The stage was very small ' hardly 10 feet by 10 feet ' and, as it always happens in Bihar, a lot of people had climbed onto it. We could hardly stand. I had merely said ‘Adhyaksha Ji'’ when I saw this man carrying pistols in both his hands'.”
He said there were hardly any policemen at the venue.
“We didn’t know about the rally. The organisers may have informed the district administration, but the local police hadn’t been told,” a senior officer said.