Congress president Rahul Gandhi will address a rally on Sunday, the first public meeting organised by the party at the Gandhi Maidan in nearly three decades. The state unit of the Congress relegated to the status of a marginal player ever since Mandal burst on the political scene in the 1990s - appears to have shed its ennui and working overtime to ensure that the rally is a grand success.
AICC in-charge of Bihar, Shaktisinh Gohil said on Saturday that invitations have been sent to alliance partners like Tejashwi Yadav, Upendra Kushwaha and Jitan Ram Manjhi for the event.
Congress is part of Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) in Bihar which also comprises RJD, RLSP and HAM of former chief minister Manjhi. Manjhi has confirmed his presence at the event. It needs to be seen whether Kushwaha, who is nourishing wounds at PMCH following a clash with the police, will be able to make it to the programme or not.
There, is, however, no word about the participation of RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav. BPCC sources said party leaders have held at least 400 public meetings across the state in the recent past in a bid to galvanize support for the rally, which would serve as a veritable sounding of bugle for the Lok Sabha polls which may be announced next month. Arrangements have been made at various places in the city, including residences of many of the party's legislators, for lodging Congress supporters, who are expected to converge from far-off corners of the state to witness the first rally of the party in more than two decades.
This would be the first public meeting to be addressed by Rahul Gandhi in Bihar after he took over as the party president a little over a year ago and this has led to palpable enthusiasm among young cadre, who have put up colourful posters across the city, many of these taking jibes at the Narendra Modi government with earthy slogans. Some others have stoked minor controversies by depicting Gandhi as deities like Lord Siva and Lord Rama. Inside the Gandhi Maidan, independent MLA from Mokama Anant Singh can be seen looking after the catering arrangements and he says, "I will be there along with my supporters to ensure the success of the rally though I may not yet be a member of the Congress." Singh has expressed his desire to contest from Munger Lok Sabha seat on a Congress ticket, drawing criticisms from the ruling JD(U)-BJP combine which accuse the Grand Old Party of providing a platform to a bahubali. However, AICC in-charge of Bihar Shaktisinh Gohil dismisses such criticisms, pointing out that Singh was a member of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U) and also had access to Deputy CM and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.
"Our rally will create history. It is for the first time in three decades that the Congress is holding its own rally in Gandhi Maidan. Though our top leaders like Sonia Gandhi have, in the recent past, spoken at rallies organized by coalitions of which we are a part," Gohil said, adding, "but tomorrow, we will be the hosts and alliance partners like Tejashwi Yadav, Upendra Kushwaha and Jitan Ram Manjhi have been sent invitations to lend strength to our fight against the BJP."
Elaborate security arrangements are in place for the rally. According to Superintendent of Police, Patna, Garima Malik, nearly 3,000 police personnel, including constables, sub-inspectors and officers of DSP rank would be deployed in the city to maintain law and order even as a temporary outpost has been set up in the vicinity of the venue of the rally. In addition, Quick Response Teams and Anti-Terrorist Squad would be deployed inside the sprawling Gandhi Maidan where more than 100 CCTV cameras have been installed to keep a close watch on the movement of people, Malik added. Notably, the Gandhi Maidan which has witnessed rallies by luminaries like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajendra Prasad in the pre-Independence era and Jayaprakash Narayan, Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee later on - was hit by a series of bomb explosions in 2013 when Narendra Modi, then the Chief Minister of Gujarat and the BJPs Prime Ministerial candidate, had addressed his maiden election meeting in Bihar.
A year later, a stampede at the huge ground with a perimeter of nearly 2.5 kilometers during Dussehra celebrations had claimed more than a score of lives.