RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Sunday joined 18 national parties to issue a joint call to all â€˜anti-BJP forcesâ€™ to close ranks to â€œsave the countryâ€ from the â€œcommunal and divisiveâ€ BJP and its â€œunholy intentionâ€ to gobble up India by breaking alliances and parties by underhand means, as it did in Bihar.
Lalu Prasad accused the Centre of launching a witch hunt against anybody who opposed it by misusing the central investigate agencies, but said he would not be cowed down.
Addressing the â€˜Desh Bachao, Bhajpa bhagaoâ€™ (Save the nation, drive out BJP) rally at the sprawling Gandhi Maidan in the heart of Patna, he said parties proving to be inconvenient to the BJP at the Centre were facing witch hunts and their leaders threatened through misuse of central investigating agencies.
â€œThis rally will redefine the direction national politics will take hereon,â€ he declared.
Lalu Prasad, a former Bihar chief minister, was joined by TMC chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, and five ex-chief ministers — Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party, Babulal Marandi of the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM), Hemant Soren of the JMM, his wife Rabri Devi and Ghulam Nabi Azad of Jammu and Kashmir — besides D Raja of the CPI and Sharad Yadav of the JD(U).
The JD(S) and the RLD also joined the show of strength against the BJP and the Nitish Kumar-led government.
BSP chief Mayawati, Congressâ€™s Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, CPI-Mâ€™s Sitaram Yechury were among the notable absentees, taking some sheen off the opposition unity rally, though the messages of the two Congress leaders were played on screen and senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad filled the party spot.
The rally was also seen as an attempt by the RJD chief and his family, faced with cases of CBI, ED and Income Tax, to launch his heir apparent, Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, the former deputy chief minister in the grand alliance cabinet led by chief minister Nitish Kumar.
It was the CBI FIR filed against Tejashwi over a benami deal and his â€˜refusalâ€™ to come clean in public or resign, as demanded by Nitish Kumar that brought down the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance government on July 26, with the JD(U) joining the BJP.
Sharad Yadav, who risked expulsion from the JD(U) by attending the meet, said, â€œThe state of politics is such that even my shadow has rebelled against me. Itâ€™s a travesty that there is no commitment to truth left in politics todayâ€¦ But I am not afraid and will fight to save the country from divisive forces till my last breath,â€ he said.
He said the Mahagathbandhan was a mandate created by the people, which was insulted, yet he did not carry any grievance against those who brought it down.
He warned that â€œthe sacrifices and values of the forefathers on which the country was built was on the verge of destruction and it was necessary for all to come forward to.â€
Lalu Prasad focused his speech mostly on CM Nitish Kumarâ€™s â€œclandestine dealâ€ with the BJP and breaking ranks with the grand alliance.
He called Nitish Kumar an â€œunprincipled and untrustworthyâ€™ person but refrained from taking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
â€œI am a Bhola baba, who made Nitish the CM, trusting him. But he broke our trust and his realignment with the BJP would prove to be his nemesis as the BJPâ€™s Amit Shah has taken him in his grip like an elephant folds a person in his trunk,â€ Lalu Prasad said.
â€œHe (Nitish Kumar) is jealous of my son Tejashwi and was in the know of the CBI raids at my house in connection with the land for hotel scam,â€ he said , adding, â€œAll details of my property is in public domain.â€
Mamata Banerjee, in a fiery speech, launched a broadside at the BJP for â€œmisusingâ€ federal agencies to harass regional parties and gave a call to oust the party from power in the 2019 polls.
â€œThe BJP government is of the agencies, for the agencies, by the agencies. They have put my parliamentary party leader in jail. But we are not going to be intimidated. How many of us would they put in jail?â€ she asked, amid a thunderous response from the crowd.
Banerjee thanked the RJD chief for his initiative of opposition unity, saying she had full faith on Lalu Prasad, but took potshots at Nitish Kumar for the leaving the grand alliance.
â€œThe BJP-led government at the Centre is now interfering in all matters, be it food habits, religion or dress code. It seems they have made god a party member. Would they now give us a certificate that we are Hindus?â€ she asked.
Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav also castigated the Modi government for playing up the rhetoric of â€˜achche dinâ€™ and doing little to ameliorate the condition of the poor, farmers and youths.
â€œNow, the BJP has changed its tagline from â€˜achche dinâ€™ to â€˜new Indiaâ€™, realising they have failed to fulfil their promises. But such gimmicks will no longer befool the people of India,â€ he said.
Akhilesh, who suffered a defeat in UP a few months back, also flayed the practice by the BJP to misuse agencies to victimise rivals, referring to the inquiry set up by the Yogi Adityanath government on the Gomti riverfront beautification scheme.
â€˜I am also in the club of those being inquired into,â€ he quipped, evoking a big cheer from the crowd.