Faceoff: Lalu sets up rally clash with Modi

Faceoff: Lalu sets up rally clash with Modi

BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is set to address a rally in Bihar's Muzaffarpur town March 3, when RJD chief Lalu Prasad too will hold a big public meeting in the same town on the same day.

A senior RJD leader close to the party chief said Lalu's plan to hold a big meeting of party workers is to take on Modi. 

"It is more of a symbolic gesture to send a message to Muslims, his traditional supporters, that Lalu is ready to corner Modi and not Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is trying to create an anti-Modi image," the RJD leader said. Nitish ended his party Janata Dal-United's alliance with the BJP last year.

RJD MP Ram Kirpal Yadav said Lalu's public meeting will be bigger than Modi's.

"In Bihar, Laluji is a mass leader and a big crowd puller. We will attract more people than Modi's rally," Yadav said.

BJP state president Mangal Pandey, however, said the BJP is not taking seriously Lalu's parallel meeting to Modi's rally. Muzaffarpur is about 70 km from Patna.

"We are cool and concentrating to make Modi's rally a mega show of strength ahead of Lok Sabha polls," he said.

According to RJD leader Ram Chandra Purve, over two decades back, Lalu as chief minister in October 1990 stopped BJP leader L.K. advani's Ayodhya rathyatra in Samastipur district and arrested him.

"It was a courageous act with risk, but Lalu proved his commitment to secularism. He challenged Advani then by stopping the Hindutva bandwagon, now he is ready to challenge Modi," he said.

Last October, Lalu's wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi said Nitish Kumar does not have the strength to stop Narendra Modi from coming to the state, the way Lalu Prasad had stopped  Advani.

"Lalu Prasad had the guts to stop the rath of Advani but Nitish Kumar does not have the strength to stop Narendra Modi," she said then.

RJD leaders hope that Muslims, who constitute 16.5 percent of Bihar's 105 million population, will not support Nitish Kumar's JD-U as Lalu has always fought against communal forces whether in power or out of office.

Political experts here said it would be interesting to see how Modi and Lalu hold parallel rallies in Muzaffarpur, the commercial and political hub of flood prone north Bihar.

BJP and RJD leaders claimed they have made a request to district administration to allot them separate grounds.

However, Muzaffarpur District Magistrate Anupam Kumar said that he was unaware of any request made by either the BJP or the RJD to hold a rally.

"We will allot venue for them, but will not allow two rallies on the same ground," he said.Lalu is also trying to ensure that Yadavs, who constitute more than 11 percent of the state population do not drift to the saffron party in view of Modi's popularity.

Yadavs along with Muslims were considered not only loyal to Lalu but a strong social support base to counter upper caste dominance in state politics in the past over two decades.

After being released from jail on bail in multi-crore fodder scam nearly two months ago, Lalu Prasad has repeatedly said that Nitish Kumar is not a factor in Bihar and the battle in the Lok Sabha polls would be between him and the BJP's Modi.

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