A World War-era airbase in Bhagalpur will host Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s final rally in Bihar ahead of the upcoming assembly elections, an event that state BJP leaders say will be marked by some serious hard talk.
"Badi kadi batein hongi. Nitish-Laluji ko milengey apney prashno ke jawab (There’ll be some tough talk where Nitish and Lalu will get answers to all their questions)," said former Union minister and ex-MP from Bhagalpur, Shahnawaz Hussein, who lost the 2014 Lok Sabha election despite a Modi wave.
The largely unkempt venue for the September 1 rally is a World War-2 airbase later reshaped as a forward airforce base during the Chinese aggression of 1962. Its 240-acre spread is much larger than the 64-acre Sandy's Compound and the 59-acre Gandhi Maidan in Patna, which accommodate about 200,000 people each.
The BJP expects a congregation of some 500,000 people, a fact confirmed by district magistrate Adesh Titermare.
Bhagalpur, the biggest city on the eastern periphery of Bihar, is a politically influential area and also serves as a gateway to the minority-dominated Seemanchal.
The event, planned for August 30 earlier, was shifted to September 1 in view of a rally by the Grand Alliance of the RJD, JD(U), Congress and NCP.
"The timing helps, as our rally would answer all charges the Lalu-led alliance would throw," Ashwani Kumar Choubey, a former legislator from Bhagalpur and now Buxar MP, said.
In Patna, former deputy chief minister and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi said there was a wave in favour of his party.
"The idea of the PM as a pro-development man holds mass appeal. Bihar's far-eastern districts have been neglected the most and the recent R1.65 lakh crore package announced with space for Bhagalpur would enthuse a large crowd to attend the rally," he said.
The BJP's emphasis in the campaign so far has been to hit out at the Lalu-Nitish pairing as crime-tainted and arrogant. The Grand Alliance on the other hand has termed the PM's special package an eyewash and attacked the BJP's politics as communal.
On Nitish Kumar's credentials as a man of economic progress, the BJP has said the CM has only shown himself as capable of slow development, which cannot bring industries, infrastructure or jobs to the people.