Bihar was set for fresh political jousting between the BJP and the ruling JD(U) as the BJPís ĎShahid asthi kalash yatraí 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 on Saturday.
The BJPís prime ministerial candidate was due to arrive in Patna on 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 Kumarís allegations about the BJP and Modi being communal, the BJP has stressed that the asthi yatra aimed 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 Modiís 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 Begusaraiís Tarabariyarpur village of blast victim Vindeshwari Choudhary. During the yatra, local BJP leaders have been stopping their vehicles and giving ďpeace callsĒ 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.