India: Bihar braces for Modi’s Hunkar RallyBy Amarnath Tewary Oct 26, 2013 11:44AM UTC
Bhartiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi appears all set to storm the bastion of political bete noire Nitish Kumar on Sunday with the party’s Hunkar Rally in Patna, state capital of Bihar. The Bihar chief minister, earlier, cancelled a dinner with the top BJP leaders in Patna expressing his reservations over NaMo, as he is known in the Indian media. Modi has always been persona non grata for Kumar in Bihar, apparently because of his lofty political ambitions and aspirations.
The Bihar chief minister, on 16 June, even severed his ties of 17 years with the BJP because of Modi and his government survived in Bihar with the support of Congress party. Ever since the split, BJP leaders have launched tirades against Kumar. What surprised everyone is the overnight turnaround of senior BJP leader and former Deputy chief minister Shushil Kumar Modi who before 16 June saw Nitish Kumar as a PM candidate. Bihar BJP leader Shushil Modi, known as SuMo, was such an admirer of Kumar that in Bihar he was often accused of putting the BJP’s interests second.
The Bihar unit of the BJP was divided along pro-Shushil Modi and anti-Shushil Modi lines until he recently put his weight entirely behind NaMo, surprising even Nitish Kumar.
Such has been the effect of Narendra Modi that the entire party unit, willingly or unwillingly, appears to be pulling out all the stops to make the rally a “historic” one. All the party’s 12 Lok Sabha members and 91 legislators from Bihar have fanned out in every nook and cranny of the state to muster support for the rally; some with innovate ideas and experiments to draw attention of their supreme leader. NaMo tea stalls were set up, NaMo jalebis (Indian sweets) were handed out, door-to-door campaigns set off and road shows and boat shows were organized to invite people to the rally.
At the Gandhi Maidan, venue of the Hunkar Rally, a huge tent measuring over 2.5 lakh sq feet is being erected, one lakh (100,000) wooden toothbrushes [daatuns] are to be distributed before serving puri-subzi to the rally goers; scores of LED screens, a hi-tech linear sound system and 12 cameramen are also part of the arrangements. Altogether 11 trains and over 3,000 bused have been booked to ferry people to and fro to the rally venue. Hundreds of banners, posters, hoardings and arch-gates have been put up as well as larger than life cutouts of BJP leaders. The state capital, Patna, has become completely covered with rally posters and banners throwing normal traffic out of gear. Public convenience in the capital has gone kaput for the rally.
The party has also distributed two CDs ‘NaMo Hunkar’ and ‘Modi banenge PM’ right up to village level to spread the message of the Hunkar Rally. Bhojpuri superstar Manoj Tiwari – who recently joined the BJP – has also been roped in to pull and entertain crowds at the rally.
Party leader Shushil Modi once again outdid other party leaders when he took his road-show to the streets in Patna on Thursday with a gang of bikers escorting him while chanting SuMo/NaMo’s name. SuMo said he was inviting people through his road-shows to attend the rally, but for the frightened common it brought back memories of the previous RJD regime when rogue bikers with party flags often rampaged through city roads. They wonder if this is a sign of things to come should the BJP come to power.
The party leaders claim that over five lakh (500,000) people will be attending the Hunkar Rally and it will be the biggest ever in Patna. The star speaker Narendra Modi will be reaching at the venue at 2pm and will leave the city by 3pm. His entourage will go to the rally site direct from the Patna airport amidst tight security measures. He will likely to attack Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar for cancelling the dinner for them and raise other issues to strike a cord with the common people. Narendra Modi has made an impact with the urban middle class and youth in Bihar, but has not won the hearts of rural people in the caste-ridden society of Bihar. Although NaMo is widely seen as a strong leader, over-enthusiastic leaders like SuMo who could spoil the game by antagonizing common people through daunting road-shows .
Meanwhile, the Patna Municipal Corporation has started removing unauthorized banners, posters and hoardings, even though it is a bit late at this stage.
Nitish Kumar prefers not to be in town on Hunkar Rally day, he will be busy participating in his party’s two-day Chintan Shivir [meditation camp] at Rajgir on 27 -28 October, saying there is nothing special about it.
The Opposition party Rashtriya Janata Dal [RJD] led by incarcerated leader Lalu Prasad Yadav, though, has termed the Hunkar Rally as the Khunkhar Rally [ferocious rally] and the ruling party JD-U has dubbed it the Chitkar Rally [mourning rally]. Whatever you prefer to call it, NaMo’s presence in Bihar will herald some changes in the state’s political firmament. Whether it’s for good or bad, only time will tell.
Amarnath Tewary is the Bihar-based assistant editor of Indian national newspaper The Pioneer.