Massive turnout for Lalu’s Patna rally


Patna : Hundreds of thousands of people have arrived here from across Bihar Sunday to attend Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad’s rally – the first after he was ousted from power in 2005.

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The massive turnout of people, mostly from rural areas of Bihar and Jharkhand, looks like a celebration of sorts – almost all roads are packed with crowds.

The RJD, on its part, has made every effort to ensure a large gathering. It booked 35 special trains and hundreds of light and heavy motor vehicles to ferry people from across the state and neighbouring areas to this capital city. And party activists and supporters have literally painted Patna green – the colour of the party.

RJD leader Shakeel Ahmed Khan said his party was paying the Indian Railways for the special trains. “The railways will earn a hefty amount from running these special trains. It is not free of cost,” he said.

However, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) national spokesman Shivanand Tiwari questioned the booking of the trains. He alleged that Lalu Prasad was “blatantly misusing” railway resources for ensuring the success of his rally.

Railway officials pointed out that the special trains could delay the regular rail services. “Some long-distance trains, including the Rajdhani Express, that run through Bihar and Jharkhand, would be delayed due to the special trains,” an official said.

This is the first time the RJD chief is holding a rally here after he was ousted from power in the 2005 assembly polls. All eyes are on this rally because the turnout will indicate whether or not his support base is still intact.

“The rally will set a new record as over one million people are expected to attend it,” a RJD leader said.

Upbeat RJD leaders and party workers have put up hundreds of welcome arches, hoardings, flags and banners in the state capital — all in the party’s official green colour.

“RJD’s green billboards and graffiti are visible everywhere in Patna,” said Sahdeo Manjhi, a rickshaw-puller and Lalu Prasad sympathiser.

The green arches and hoardings have virtually taken over Gandhi Maidan, Dak Bungalow Square, Ashok Rajpath, Boring Road and Station Square.

Shakeel Ahmad Khan, a former Communist leader, made it clear green is to the RJD what red is to the Communists and saffron to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Yes, entire Patna has turned hara-bhara (full of green),” Khan said.

Pictures of Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi have also been plastered on all hoardings, banners and billboards.