Lalu, Nitish to skip Rahul’s rally today

Jaswinder Singh Baidwan

Akhran da mureed
Staff member
Congress’ opening rally in Bihar on Saturday is set to be a low-key affair with grand alliance top guns — Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad and Janata Dal-United leader Nitish Kumar — confirming their absence.
The rally, to be held in West Champaran, will be addressed by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Congress’ first since state polls were announced by the election commission on September 9. While Lalu had expressed his inability to attend the event earlier, the Bihar Chief Minister today conveyed to the Congress that he, too, would be busy on account of ticket finalisation.
So far as the RJD goes, the Congress, amid apprehensions that it may altogether skip the event (courtesy Lalu-Rahul’s distrust), earlier tasked its Haryana leader and Lalu’s relative Capt Ajay Yadav with ensuring RJD’s attendance. Yadav subsequently got Lalu’s son Tejaswi’s confirmation for attendance.
The JD-U has deputed MP KC Tyagi to mark his presence at the event with the Congress today downplaying the absence of alliance stalwarts at Rahul’s maiden show, structured as a tribute to Dr BR Ambedkar.
“The August 30 Patna rally was the first of the grand alliance in which all top leaders came. Tomorrow’s event was essentially a Congress function. Its scope was expanded after the announcement of Bihar polls and considering the fact that our alliance had been struck. Consequently, invites were sent to the RJD and JD-U who are sending their nominees. Nitish is busy with ticket distribution. Even when I called him for some work, he requested to be excused for two days. Reading more into their absence than the fact that they are busy would be unfair,” Shakeel Ahmad, senior spokesperson of the Congress, said today.
But party leaders privately admitted with Lalu and Nitish absent, the first show of the Congress in Bihar would lack the zing it desperately needed to kick-start a smart campaign. They added the development posed questions about acceptance of Rahul as a leader by other non-Congress veterans who are still only comfortable with party chief Sonia Gandhi.