The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will arrive in Patna late Friday night amid tight security and growing fears that the party’s ongoing yatra carrying the ashes of those killed in Sunday’s blasts may stir communal passions.
Modi will visit the families of all six blast victims on Saturday and plans to leave the state capital early in the morning for a helicopter tour of their villages. State BJP leaders said he would cover Kaimur, Gopalganj, Supaul, Begusarai and Nalanda districts.
A Gujarat Police contingent with 162 personnel and a bomb squad arrived in Patna ahead of the BJP strongman.
The Bihar government — criticised for allegedly being lax about security at Modi’s hunkar (roar) rally on Sunday, where a series of blasts left more than 90 people injured — has declared the Gujarat CM a state guest and planned a five-layered security ring at each of the villages he plans to visit.
The Bihar Military Force will deploy 200 commandoes at each place.
But the Nitish Kumar government is also concerned about the BJP’s ongoing Shahid Asthi Yatra, and has questioned its timing.
“His (Modi’s) agenda is clear. He wants the already fragile communal situation to be shattered beyond repair,” the chief minister said on Friday.
Another minister, Narendra Singh, called Modi “maut ka saudagar (merchant of death)” — an apparent reference to the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
Modi’s critics also drew a parallel between the yatra in Bihar and the Gujarat government’s controversial decision in 2002 to allow the bodies of the Godhra train fire victims to be brought to Ahmedabad.
“The decision to parade bodies sparked riots across Gujarat and is the basis for the demand for Modi’s prosecution,” said human rights lawyer Mukul Sinha.
Former Gujarat Police intelligence chief RB Sreekumar has consistently maintained that the primary factor that created tension was the Modi government’s decision “to allow the bodies to be shifted”.
The BJP’s Bihar unit said the ongoing yatra would criss-cross the state and conclude in Patna on November.
“It is to pay homage to the martyrs who lost their lives due to the negligence of the state government,” said state unit chief Mangal Pandey.
Other party leaders conceded that the yatra was also meant to prepare an “emotional setting” for Modi’s visit on Saturday.