Bihar was set for fresh political jousting between the BJP and the ruling JD(U) as the BJPs Shahid asthi kalash yatra carrying the ashes of the six men killed in the Patna bomb blasts wound its way through the state,laying the ground for Narendra Modi to meet their families and offer his condolences Saturday.
The BJPs prime ministerial candidate was due to arrive in Patna Friday evening,his second high-profile visit to the state in less than a week,raising the pitch of his confrontation with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
In a bid to counter Kumars allegations about the BJP and Modi being communal,the BJP has stressed that the asthi yatra aims to send a message to Hindus and Muslims that they have to fight terrorism together.
The yatra began Thursday and will conclude on November 5 with the immersion of the ashes in the Ganga.
Although Modi will not take part in the yatra,the BJP hopes that his gesture to meet the families of the victims will boost his image as Kumar is yet to even announce such a plan.
Modi will first meet the family of a victim in Gaurichak,Patna,and then visit families in Kaimur,Begusarai,Gopalganj,Supaul and Nalanda. With the Bihar government being strongly criticised for the security during Modis rally Sunday when Patna was hit by serial blasts,authorities seemed to be taking no chances this time and were busy ensuring tight protection.
Gujarat government officials had also arrived at the venues to monitor security as Modi is set to walk through narrow lanes to reach the homes of some families.
The yatra was launched by former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi from Supaul village of victim Bharat Rajak and will cover the adjoining districts of Madhepura and Saharsa. Another segment of the yatra was launched by BJP national vice-president C P Thakur from Begusarais Tarabariyarpur village of blast victim Vindeshwari Choudhary.
During the yatra,local BJP leaders have been stopping their vehicles and giving peace calls and asking people to take a pledge to unitedly fight terrorism.
BJP state general secretary Suraj Nandan Mehta,who has been monitoring the schedule of the yatra,said BJP leader of opposition Nand Kishore Yadav marked the beginning of yet another segment of the yatra from Kaimur village of victim Vikas Kumar Singh.
BJP national general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy and BJP state president Mangal Pandey launched a segment from Gopalganj village of victim Munna Srivastava. Former ministers Ashwini Kumar Choubey and Prem Kumar started the yatra from Gaurichak,while former minister Giriraj Singh started it from Nalanda village of victim Rajesh Kumar.
JD(U) national spokesperson K C Tyagi criticised the yatra,saying the BJP was playing with human emotions for political gain.
There are other leaders in the BJP who could have visited these places without lights,camera and action as Modi plans to. Such a yatra can create a Muzaffarnagar or Godhra in Bihar, Tyagi said.
Former chief minister and RJD leader Rabri Devi refrained from commenting on the yatra,with RJD sources saying the party would not engage in politics ahead of Chhath puja.
Sushil Kumar Modi justified the yatra saying it was intended to send a message to fight terrorism in the wake of the Patna blast.
As the blasts took place during Narendra Modis rally,it is a good gesture by him to revisit Bihar to share the grief of the families of victims. Nitish Kumar has been resorting to archaic phrases of fascism and raising the pitch of communalism out of desperation, he said.
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