Patna: A staggering 200,000 people, including eight chief ministers and a galaxy of national leaders ranged against the BJP, will attend on Friday the swearing-in ceremony of Nitish Kumar as Bihar’s chief minister for a fifth term in office here.
Unprecedented security cover has been put in place in Bihar capital for the swearing-in ceremony of Nitish Kumar, who will head the first JD-U-RJD-Congress coalition to rule Bihar.
An estimated two lakh people, mostly workers, supporters and leaders of the Grand Alliance parties Janata Dal-United, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress are expected throng at the historic Gandhi Maidan to witness the event, police said.
Bihar Police chief P.K. Thakur told the media that security cover is unprecedented in view of a number of political leaders across the country attending the function. “We are taking no chances due to threat perception to several leaders.”
According to police officials, many leaders having Z plus and Z cover security are attending the oath-taking ceremony, including Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi.
Besides the elite security agencies like Special Protection Group (SPG), personnel of central para-military security forces and state police have been deployed.
“More than 3,000 additional security personnel including 30 DSPs and SP rank officers have been deployed in Gandhi Maidan to manage the two lakh crowd expected to gather here for the show,” Patna Senior Superintendent of Police Vikas Vaibhav said.
He said 20 watch towers have been set up and 40 CCTV cameras installed in and around the venue.
Patna Divisional Commissioner Anand Kishore said two huge canopy shaped daises (70×40 feet) are ready for top leaders. “Only Chief Minister designate Nitish Kumar, his new cabinet colleagues and VVIPs would be accommodated on the main dais.”
According to him, there is a separate gallery dais for others.
A senior police official told IANS that a team of intelligence officials and SPG personnel has been deployed to keep a close watch during the function. “Bomb detection and disposal squads along with dog squads are carrying regular checks of the site.”
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi declining to attend the event, he and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which badly lost the Bihar assembly polls, would be represented by party leaders and central ministers M. Venkaiah Naidu and Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
The ceremony will be attended by nine chief ministers, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and leaders of several other political parties.
The chief ministers are Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi), Tarun Gogoi (Assam), P.K. Chamling (Sikkim), O. Ibobi Singh (Manipur), Nabam Tuki (Arunachal Pradesh), Virbhadra Singh (Himachal Pradesh), and S. Siddaramaiah (Karnataka).
Other political veterans expected to join in include CPI-M general secreatry Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D. Raja, Indian National Lok Dal’s Abhay Chautala, DMK’s M.K. Stalin and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah.
There will also be former chief ministers Omar Abdullah (Jammu and Kashmir), Sheila Dikshit (Delhi), Bhupinder Hooda (Haryana), Shankarsinh Vaghela (Gujarat), Babulal Marandi and Hemant Soren (Jharkhand) and Ajit Jogi (Chhattisgarh).
The Grand Alliance of Nitish Kumar swept 178 of the 243 Bihar assembly seats, leaving 53 to the BJP and five to its three allies in an election outcome that Lalu Prasad said would have major political repercussion.
According to JD-U leaders, Nitish Kumar will take oath at the head of a 36-member council of ministers.
The RJD is the single largest party in the house with 80 seats followed by the JD-U (71) and the Congress (27 seats). There will be 16 RJD ministers, 15 from the JD-U and five from the Congress in the government. Lalu Prasad’s younger son Tejaswi Yadav is expected to get a plum post.
Supporters of the JD-U, RJD and Congress from across Bihar are pouring in at the Gandhi Maidan. Hundreds of security personnel are geared to protect the venue and the VVIPs.
JD-U state president Vashisht Narain Singh told the media that it was the first time such a large number of top politicians would attend the oath-taking of Nitish Kumar.
“Such a thing has never happened. It is the beginning of opposition unity in the country,” he said.
Friday’s gathering would be the first major show of anti-BJP unity since Modi became the prime minister in May 2014.
Also expected to attend the event are B.R. Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar and Supreme court lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who along with Mamata Banerjee and Kejriwal repeatedly urged voters in Bihar to defeat the BJP.
Nitish Kumar personally telephoned and invited Modi to the swearing-in ceremony but the prime minister expressed his inability to attend because of his previous engagements, officials said.
Earlier, Nitish Kumar invited BJP veteran L.K. Advani and estranged BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha to the event.
Lalu Prasad and JD-U president Sharad Yadav will be the main guests at the event.