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AHEAD OF Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s rally in Patna on Wednesday, the Trinamool Congress has left no stone unturned to ensure a meeting between its party chief and RJD president Lalu Prasad. Even before Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar endorsed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation decision publicly last Saturday, Trinamool vice-president Mukul Roy had visited Patna to meet Lalu. A source said that during the meeting, Mamata and Lalu spoke to each other on Roy’s phone.
“The two have known each other for years. Mamata Banerjee heard that Lalu Prasad was unwell and wanted to speak to him. The two have cordial relations. When Mamata was in Patna during Nitish Kumar’s oath-taking ceremony, she walked from Nitish’s house to Lalu’s. There she interacted not just with the former chief minister but also his entire family,” the source said.
With Nitish claiming that his opponents were attempting to “politically assassinate” him by spreading “canards” of his presumed proximity to the BJP, Mamata is reportedly taking no chances ahead of her rally. Sources said while Mamata was upset with Nitish’s “twin-track” politics, she hoped that Lalu’s support would be instrumental to her rally’s success.
Previously, no top RJD leader had joined hands with the Congress on its November 28 protest on the demonetisation policy, in spite of Lalu expressing solidarity on the issue to Sonia Gandhi.
On Tuesday, Mamata on Twitter announced that Trinamool will take the “people’s movement” against demonetisation to Gardani Bagh Dharnasthal in Patna. Sources confirmed that the Nitish government, though not publicly supporting the protest, had promptly given permission for the rally.
“The entire country is suffering. There is no money in banks and ATMs. So far 80 people have already died due to demonetisation.
“But Narendra Modi is giving lectures on moving towards a cash less economy. This dictatorship will not be allowed to go on. The Opposition needs to remain united,” said Mamata.
Meanwhile, sources said Lalu had expressed concern over the presence of Jan Adhikar Party chief and Lok Sabha MP Pappu Yadav in Mamata’s rally. Pappu Yadav, who was expelled from the RJD in 2010, had campaigned against Lalu and Nitish ahead of the 2015 Assembly elections in Bihar. “Lalu Prasad has expressed his concern over the attendance of Pappu Yadav. He had repeatedly attacked Laluji and his family before the 2015 elections. This is a possible area of tension between Mamata and Lalu,” said a senior Trinamool leader.
Earlier, JD(U) MP and spokesperson K C Tyagi, had said: “With someone like Pappu Yadav attending the protest, there is no question of the JD(U) supporting the rally. There is no reason for it to be held in Patna.”