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In last lap, NDA presents united face
Brings Nitish, Modi on one stage; TRS chief also present
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News service

Ludhiana, May 10
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) today presented a united face at a ‘Maha Rally’ here today. The alliance presented as many as eight chief ministers on the same platform and brought leaders of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha from Darjeeling, Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader K Chandrashekhar Rao and Assam Gana Parishad (AGP) on the same platform.

TRS, which was till today a part of the Third Front, broke ranks and appeared on the NDA platform with Rao today promising to win over some unnamed allies. TRS had contested the election in alliance with the Left parties and the TDP in Andhra Pradesh. Also present at the rally were INLD president Om Prakash Chautala and Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi.

The five-hour rally, held in scorching heat, lasted from 11 am to 4 pm and barring the star attraction Narendra Modi, all other leaders sat through the speeches. As many as four chief ministers present at the rally, of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, were left out in the cold and did not get a chance to address the rally.

Enthused by the turn-out, NDA’s Prime Ministerial hopeful, Lal Krishna Advani, claimed that the first four phases of the general election had thrown up clear trends in favour of the alliance and all that was required was a ‘final blow’ on Wednesday, when the last phase of polling is scheduled.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar flew in to attend the rally and shared the platform with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Kumar had earlier prevented Modi from campaigning in Bihar and had declared that he would never share a political platform with Modi. With elections over in Bihar, he today spoke warmly with Modi, shook his hands and both of them raised their arms together for the benefit of the cheering crowd.

The show of unity and strength assumed added significance in the face of attempts of poaching by Congress on NDA allies, particularly Nitish Kumar. To dispel any misgivings, Modi clasped Nitish's hand and raised it in a display of unity. Calling upon Bihari migrant industrial and farm workers, who form a sizeable vote bank in the region, Nitish asked them to vote for NDA saying, “the NDA is going to sweep these elections, not only in Bihar but throughout the country”.

Advani and other speakers pleaded with the people to exercise their right to franchise. “We are almost there, please make sure that every single vote of the NDA is cast early in the day to ensure defeat of the UPA”, they said. Making an appeal to the women Advani said, “Pehley matdaan, phir jal paan” (first vote then go into your kitchens)”.

In the 2004 general election, said Advani, the coalition was perhaps over-confident and lost out narrowly. But this time, he quipped, he was hopeful of victory precisely because pundits in the media have ruled out NDA’s chances.

BJP President Rajnath Singh declared that once the NDA government assumes power, it would completely waive off all farm loans and ensure all future borrowings at no more than 4 percent interest. “This will check farmer suicides. Besides we will ensure that the farmers have to mortgage land only to the extent of the borrowing and not their entire land”.

Launching a strident attack on the Congress led UPA government, leaders of the all nine political parties that include the five new alliance partners described the UPA as a failure saying “it did not have any single achievement to highlight”. Interestingly, every NDA partner had the same grouse against the UPA - discrimination against the states. Nitish said centre had asked Bihar to return the Rs 1000 crore flood relief fund, while Modi accused the centre of obstructing linking of river waters and Chander Shekhar Rao, of Telengana Rashtrya Samiti accused the UPA of betraying its people.

Advani said Congress was indulging in propaganda about NDA disintegrating. “If one political party has left the NDA, five have joined it”, he said pointing towards the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Rashtriya Lok Dal, Asom Gana Parishad, Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leadership. The existing NDA partners whose leaders were present in todays rally included the BJP, Shiv Sena, SAD and Janta Dal (U).

The NDA’s first and perhaps the only rally during the campaigning for the 15th Lok Sabha poll was organised by Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal at the behest of Advani. Though the state BJP wanted to be in the forefront, SAD leadership insisted that the show of strength should go to its credit. Therefore the SAD asked its senior leader Maheshinder Singh Grewal to alternate with state minister Manoranjan Kalia in compering the event, thereby bringing out the power struggle within the SAD-BJP alliance.

CM Parkash Singh Badal said that his party had an “atoot rishta” with the NDA, while Advani credited Badal for starting coalition politics in India by forming an alliance between the SAD and Jang Sangh soon after the Emergency days. Starting from Sharad Yadav (JDU) and Ajit Singh (RLD) to Manohar Joshi, Om Parkash Chautala (INLD), Sushma Swraj (BJP) and BJP President Rajnath Singh, each one seemed to be obsessed with Manmonan Singh more than anyone else. Each time they would start with Congress bashing, it would end with the PM.

Chander Mohan Patowari, chief of Asom Gana Parishad, Narendra Modi and even Advani spoke of linking all national rivers for water sharing and taking national water resource to each farmer of the country. This caused lot of embarrassment to Badal, who has declared that Punjab has not a single drop of water to be shared with Haryana or Rajasthan.

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Sidelights

Bouquets for Badal

Being able to organise a successful maha rally brought bouquets to Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal from none other than Prime Minister in waiting, L.K. Advani, who praised Badal and his workers for doing a commendable job. When Advani reached the dais to address the gathering he complimented that he had never seen such a gathering in the 11 year old history of NDA.

National or Ludhiana rally?

Though the NDA maha rally was described as a national rally, the SAD-BJP camp projected candidates of only two LS constituencies while 9 constituencies in Punjab alone would go to polls on May 13. SAD nominee from Ludhiana and Fatehgarh Sahib, G.S. Galib and Charanjit Singh Atwal respectively were the only two candidates who were present in the rally. They were made to stand silently on the stage and nobody mentioned their name even once during the entire show.

Manoranjan’s wake-up call

It was an embarrassing moment for Local Bodies Minister, Punjab, Manoranjan Kalia, when Galib, who was sitting next to him was caught by the media taking a nap on the dais. Galib stood for three hours in the rally and when he sat on a chair, he was caught napping. Seeing all cameras directed at the dozing Galib, Manoranjan shook him with his elbow and woke him up.

Modi wins hearts

Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi traced the relationship of Punjab with his native state when he said both the states had a ‘‘rakt ka rishta’’ (bond of blood). He won many a heart when he said Mehak Chand, one of the Panj Piaras of tenth Guru Gobind Singh was a Gujarati.

Sword for Bal Thackrey

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi said he would gift the sword presented to him during the rally to Shiv Sena supremo, Bal Thackey. He was presented with the sword by Deputy CM, Sukhbir Badal and during his address he said, ‘‘I will tell Thackeray, I brought this for you from Punjab.’’

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