NDA showcases unity at Ludhiana rally (Lead/Rroundup)

May 10th, 2009 - 9:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Ludhiana, May 10 (IANS) It was meant to be an election rally before the fifth and final phase of polling, but the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rally in this industrial city of Punjab Sunday turned out to be an event for the Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance to showcase “unity” in its ranks.
The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani said the “historic” and successful rally had sent a message to the country that the alliance was a solid one.

With top NDA allies, BJP leaders and chief ministers sharing the stage, Advani said the rally was the biggest event of its kind for the alliance.

“I would say that this rally, called at a short notice, is historic. It is the biggest event of the NDA ever since it was formed in 1998,” said Advani, sporting a saffron turban given to him by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Visibly happy at the presence of all top NDA leaders, including Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Advani said: “This clearly proves that we are united. While the UPA (the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance) has disintegrated, five new parties have joined the NDA. This is not an ordinary thing. This is a big thing.”

“We expect that people will vote for us this time and we will form the next government,” Advani said.

“We should not have been defeated (in 2004) but our partymen were overconfident,” he said.

Coming down on the Manmohan Singh government, Advani said, “I have seen at least 15 governments since the first general elections in 1952. I can say that this is the first government which has nothing to show to people in the name of achievements.”

He said the Congress’ ‘aam aadmi’ (common man) campaign had “failed miserably”.

He said that the UPA government was trying to evade the issue of billions of rupees of black money lying in Swiss banks and other tax havens. “When we form the government, we will bring this money back,” he said.

Nitish Kumar, who is being wooed by all other political fronts, was the cynosure of all eyes at the NDA’s show of strength.

However, Nitish Kumar, who earlier stated he would not share the stage with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of BJP, exchanged greetings with Modi and clasped his hand.

“I am here to show unity,” he said at the rally, adding that his attendance at the political event was just to show his “loyalty towards the NDA”.

“NDA is going to sweep these elections, not only in Bihar but throughout the country,” he asserted.

He also requested all Bihari migrant workers in Ludhiana, who form a sizeable vote bank, to vote for the Akali Dal and the NDA.

At the rally, Nitish Kumar and Modi sat in the front row along with top NDA leaders.

Earlier, before leaving for the rally, Nitish Kumar said at Patna airport that there was no question of his joining any other political formation - the UPA or the so-called Third Front - and he was very much part of the NDA.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi last week praised Nitish Kumar, triggering speculation that the Congress was trying to break some of the NDA allies for a post-poll alliance to come to power.

Modi termed Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on Afzal Guru as “misleading” and alleged that the UPA government was “sitting” on the death sentence for the 2001 parliament attack convict.

“I want to tell you that the Congress is befooling people on this issue. The Congress is sitting on the order to hang him for its vote bank politics ,” Modi said.

On Rahul Gandhi’s remark that Afzal’s file is in queue and he would be hanged when his time comes, Modi said: “This is the most ridiculous statement.”

Gandhi had said that Afzal’s name was at number 22 in the list of people facing death sentence.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, reacting to Modi’s comments on Afzal Guru, said it showed the BJP leader’s “duality”.

Singhvi said that the queue of people on death row was from 1998 to 2006, during which time the NDA was in power till 2004. “Afzal’s number is 22 in the queue. Before clearing the backlog, the BJP expects the government to go straight to number 22, just because of his religion.”

Modi also said that the UPA government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were insensitive to the sufferings of Tamils in Sri Lanka and more concerned about letting off Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, a suspect in the Bofors payoff case.

“This is one election where the prime ministerial candidate is not even contesting polls,” Modi said, taking a dig at Manmohan Singh who is a Rajya Sabha member.

Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader K. Chandrasekhara Rao, who earlier announced his party’s intention to join the NDA fold, also attended the rally.

Also present at the show-of-strength rally were BJP chief Rajnath Singh, JD-U president Sharad Yadav, Rashtriya Lok Dal president Ajit Singh, Asom Gana Parishad president Chandra Mohan Patowary, former Haryana chief minister and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) president Om Prakash Chautala and Shiv Sena leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Manohar Joshi.

The chief ministers of the BJP-ruled states - Modi, B.S. Yeddyurappa (Karnataka), Shivraj Singh Chauhan (Madhya Pradesh), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh), Prem Kumar Dhumal (Himachal Pradesh) and B.C. Khanduri (Uttarakhand) - also attended the rally.

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