In a show of unity, the leaders of the National Democratic Alliance on Sunday came together at a rally in Ludhiana at which Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar shed his reservations to share the stage with his Gujarat counterpart and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra Modi.
BJP's prime ministerial candidate L K Advani and Chief Ministers of NDA-ruled states among others attended the rally in which the Telanaga Rashtriya Samiti, which fought the elections in alliance with the Left parties and Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh, appeared on the NDA platform, in a major boost to the BJP-led front.
The rally in Punjab's industrial city hosted by Akali Dal chief and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal was also billed as a show of strength ahead of the counting of votes on May 16.
Nitish Kumar, who is being wooed by the Congress and the Left for a post-poll tie-up, lashed out at the United Progressive Alliance for its 'indifferent attitude' towards non-Congress ruled states at the time of disbursement of funds during natural calamities.
Nitish alleged how Bihar had not received a 'single penny' as relief to deal with the major Kosi flood crisis. When Modi came to the dais, he straightaway went to Nitish and greeted him. Modi clasped Nitish's hand and raised it in a display of unity.
In a blistering attack on the UPA, Advani claimed that the Congress-led Front had disintegrated and that it had no 'single achievement' to its credit during its five-year rule.
TRS Chief K Chandrashekar Rao, who sprang a surprise with his presence, said his party will support the NDA and get 'other friends' to join as well.
BJP president Rajnath Singh and his colleagues Sushma Swaraj and Gopinath Munde, Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi, Janata Dal United leader Sharad Yadav, Rahtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh, Indian National Lok Dal chief Om Prakash Chautala, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal also attended the rally. Assom Gana Parishad leader Chandra Mohan Patowary and Gorkha Janamukti Morcha leader Bimal Gurung were also present.
Countering the Congress' charge that the NDA was a sinking ship, Advani said, "If we have lost one ally, we have gained five new ones," and referred to the presence of seven chief ministers and other leaders present on the stage.
"On one hand, there is the NDA which has been going strong for the past 11 years, whereas the UPA, which started with a bang, has completely disintegrated today," he said.
Advani said he had participated in all the Lok Sabha elections till date directly and indirectly, "but this is the first government I have seen which does not have any achievement to show."
He also criticised the UPA for being biased against NDA-ruled states.
Citing Bihar as an example of the Centre's discrimination towards non-Congress states, Nitish said, "When the PM visited Bihar during the Kosi floods, he declared it a national disaster. They proclaimed that Bihar government asked for Rs 1,000 crore but they gave us Rs 1,010 crore. I am sad to say that so far we haven't received a penny from the Centre."
"And for relief, the Rs 1,000 crore they had given, after the polling in the Kosi area was over, exactly 20 minutes after that at 5.20 pm, we received a fax from the central government, asking for that money back," he added.
During the time of a natural calamity, when everybody helps each other, the Centre is more concerned about getting its money back, Nitish alleged.
Rejecting the Congress' and Left's overtures, Nitish said there was 'no possibility' of his being in touch with non-NDA parties and asked the people to bring the BJP-led alliance to power to 'avenge' the Centre's attitude towards his state.