Two days after the moribund Congress party held an impressive show of strength at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan, the ruling NDA now faces the pressures to arrange for spectacular crowd for its rally to be held on 3 March at the same ground. The pressure has further increased in the light of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls as a sparse crowd would convey a wrong signal among the masses. The Patna rally was addressed by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, among others.
The total crowd capacity of the historic Gandhi Maidan ground is a little over 5 lakh, and old timers say it got filled to its brim only twice during the past 44 years ~ first time when veteran socialist leader Jaiprakash Narayan had addressed a rally in June 1974 where he gave the war cry for “total revolution” against Indira Gandhi government, and then in 1993 when RJD chief Lalu Prasad held the “Garib Raila”. “Raila” was a term coined by him to mean ‘mega’ rally.
Apart from being in power, the NDA needs to explain that it still remains the darling of the masses as was seen during the last LS polls. There is again a difference here~ during the 2014 LS poll campaign, the NDA in Bihar comprised mainly the BJP and his two smaller allies, the Lok Janshakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party headed by former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha. The JD-U of chief minister Nitish Kumar was not a part of the NDA yet the rallies addressed by Narendra Modi, drew large crowds.
This time, however, the RLSP has quit the NDA but its ouster has been compensated by the ruling JD-U. So the pressures are more as the chief minister has to prove he still remains high in demand. Quite like him, Modi too has to prove if he still remains the crowd-puller in the state.
Although no major scandals came out during his five year tenure, there are wide reports of the general masses annoyed with the present Modi government over his failure to provide jobs to the youths, grant special category status and special financial package to Bihar and crediting Rs15 lakh to the bank accounts of every villager as promised by him. It will, thus, be very interesting to see how the masses react to the new “promise” of Modi government through his Interim budget.
Yet another interesting feature of this rally will be that both Modi and chief minister Kumar will be sharing dais together at a NDA rally after a gap of a full one decade. The last time they had shared the dais was at the NDA rally held in Ludhiana in May 2009. It was the photograph of the two leaders shaking hands together that later sowed seeds of differences in their relationship and the two fell apart. Only in July 2017 that Kumar returned to the NDA.
Kumar will need to explain to the masses what compelled him to return to the NDA while he had once famously launched the campaign to make India free from RSS and even declared “Mitti mein mil jayenge lekin BJP se haath nahin milayenge (I will prefer political death than returning to the BJP)”.