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Modi, Nitish share dais, TRS chief seeks votes for 'iron man'

Modi, Nitish share dais, TRS chief seeks votes for 'iron man'

Author: Express News Service
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: May 11, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/modi-nitish-share-dais-trs-chief-seeks-votes-for-iron-man/457248/0

Introduction: BJP brings together entire spectrum of allies in one show of strength, unity

Days before the verdict of 2009, in an atmosphere thick with speculation on imminent political realignments, the NDA put up a show of strength and unity Sunday, bringing together on stage Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar, and welcoming Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) into the fold.

TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao, who is supposed to be part of a grand alliance with the Telugu Desam Party and the Left in Andhra Pradesh, announced to the rally: "We will not only support NDA with an open heart but also rope in others to support it... You must vote for Lauh Purush L K Advani as the next Prime Minister."

Modi walked to Kumar and, clasping his hand, raised it in a gesture of comradeship for the cameras. In his speech, Modi referred to the Bihar chief minister - who had just about a month ago said he would not share a dais with the Gujarat CM and there was no need for him to campaign for the JD(U)-BJP in Bihar - as "hamare apne Nitish Kumar".

Before leaving for Ludhiana, Kumar - whose "good work" Rahul Gandhi recently praised, and whom CPM leaders have been wooing as well - told reporters at Patna airport he was committed to the NDA.

"I have clarified on several occasions that I am neither in touch with anybody nor has any party or leader (from outside the NDA) contacted me. How many times will I clarify? I am saying this clearly that there is no possibility of my being in touch with anybody at all," Kumar said.

In the evening, on his return from Ludhiana, he sought to explain his sharing the dais with Modi. "This was an NDA rally. I went because (Parkash Singh) Badalsaheb invited me. If someone extends his hand towards me, do you expect me to refuse to shake his hand?" TV channels quoted Kumar as saying.

In his speech, Modi praised Kumar: "Our own Nitish Kumar, just as our other (BJP) chief ministers, has ushered in a revolution in agriculture," he said.

Modi, who in a curious choice of heroes named Ram Manohar Lohia and Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan as his ideological mentors along with Deen Dayal Upadhyay, spoke on issues as diverse as the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka to Mother's Day.

"On Mother's Day today, may I remind you that this alliance, under Advani, has promised to universalise the Ladli Laxmi scheme of Madhya Pradesh to check female infanticide," Modi said, in an obvious attempt to reach out to a diverse constituency.

He took on Rahul Gandhi's statement that "Afzal Guru would be hanged when his turn comes": "Under Congress rule, it appears there's a queue for everything," Modi said. "We are being told that Afzal Guru would be hanged when his turn comes. But the fact is that out of 29 people on death row, files of 26 have been cleared. Why have three files been kept pending? Both the central government and the Delhi government have been guided by vote-bank politics."

Modi left the venue immediately after completing his speech, saying he had to address a couple of meetings in Uttar Pradesh. Nitish Kumar spoke much later, and made no reference to the Gujarat CM or his speech.

Kumar did, however, launch a blistering attack on the Congress-led UPA on the issue of the Kosi floods. "This government's behaviour with the opposition-ruled states has been shocking. In the wake of the Kosi floods, the Prime Minister came to Bihar where we demanded an immediate relief of Rs 1,000 crore. The central government said that the amount had been sanctioned. But in less than twenty minutes after the completion of polls in the Kosi belt, we were asked to return the amount sanctioned by the Centre," Kumar said, asking Bihari migrants in Punjab to "avenge this act of injustice on polling day on May 13."

Advani, who was seen talking animatedly with Kumar for over 10 minutes on the dais, took off from where the Bihar CM left.

"This is just not acceptable," he said. "How can the PM renege on a promise that he made to the state? During our six years of rule at the Centre, we made sure that no state government - whether they belonged to the Congress or the communists - was ever discriminated against."

Advani said the NDA had lost in 2004 due to "overconfidence" - this time, with people writing off the alliance, things would be different.

"In 2004, everyone believed that the NDA would win as its government had undertaken many development works, including construction of highways. However, we lost not because of the slogan (given by the Congress) about 'aam aadmi ki sarkar' but due to our overconfidence... There is no overconfidence this time and this will work in our favour," Advani said.

"If we have lost one ally (BJD), we have gained five," Advani said. He referred to the presence of seven chief ministers and a galaxy of senior leaders at the rally, which he described as "historic" and the "biggest in the 11-year history of the NDA".

Besides Kumar and Modi, the chief ministers of Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Punjab - Raman Singh, Prem Kumar Dhumal, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, BS Yedyurappa and Parkash Singh Badal - were present at the rally. Shiv Sena's Manohar Joshi, JD(U)'s Sharad Yadav, RLD's Ajit Singh and GJM's Bimal Gurung also attended. For the BJP, party chief Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj spoke.

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