New Delhi: Invoking Dalit icons BR Ambedkar and Jagjivan Ram, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi will kick off his election campaign in Bihar with rally on September 19 where other top leaders of the grand alliance are likely to be present.
The party believes with RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar addressing the rally with the theme of "Samata and Samrasata" (equity and harmony), the anti-BJP alliance will be able drive home the message of social justice with greater force.
The JD(U)-RJD-Congress combine already has a "pro-development" face in Nitish Kumar to counter Prime Minister Narendra Modi's high-pitched campaign advocating Bihar's development, party sources said.
Congress plans to make the proposed rally at Ram Nagar in West Champaran district a "mega" affair after the alliance's Swabhiman rally in Patna on August 30 which was attended by Sonia Gandhi, lalu and Nitish.
However, there are reports that Lalu may not attend the rally and send his younger son Tejaswi instead.
Lalu has not been on best of terms with Rahul ever since the Congress vice president vetoed a UPA government?s ordinance to protect convicted lawmakers from disqualification in September 2013 which, according to the Opposition, was brought to help the RJD president, who was convicted in the fodder scam.
When asked whether Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar will share the dais with Rahul Gandhi at the September 19 rally, JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi said, "Nitishji is attending the rally. Who will attend from RJD is for that party to decide but nobody has any issues with either Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi."
"Nobody has any objection to anybody attending the rally. The Champaram rally will prove that the grand alliance is intact and successful," he said.
Sources in Congress too sang the same tune. "It's a fact
that Congress is fighting Bihar polls in alliance with JD(U) and RJD. The fact remains that Lalu Prasad is the leader of the RJD," a Congress leader said.
"Congress President Sonia Gandhi has already shared the dais with Prasad and Kumar. When the party President has no problem, why will any leader have it," he said.
AICC general secretary in-charge of Bihar CP Joshi will speak to Prasad to invite him for the rally after the state unit completes the formalities, AICC sources said.
The party has also asked senior Haryana Congress leader Captain Ajay Yadav, whose son Chiranjeev Rao is married to Lalu?s daughter Anushka, to talk to RJD chief in this regard.
The rally is being organised as part of the Congress' year-long programme to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Dalit icon and architect of Indian Constitution BR Ambedkar. Holding the rally in Champaran ahead of the polls is significant as Mahatma Gandhi had launched his first 'Satyagraha' there in 1917 for the indigo farmers living in abysmal conditions.
The rally will also acknowledge the contributions of Jagivan Ram, a formidable Dalit leader from Bihar and father of former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. Ram's Chamar castemen have been brought under the Mahadalit category. The move is being seen as an attempt to counter another Mahadalit leader, Hindustani Avaam Morcha chief and former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who has joined NDA.
Besides Manjhi, the BJP-led alliance also has a prominent Dalit face in LJP leader and Union minister Ramvilas Paswan.
In last few days, Lalu has repeatedly talked of the state polls being a fight between "Mandal versus Kamandal" politics, implying it was a contest between forces of social justice and Hindutva.