Hundreds gathered at Lalu Prasad Yadav’s “Desh Bachao, BJP Bhagao” rally against the Bharatiya Janata Party in Patna on Sunday. The rally began at noon, when the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief was joined by Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav, who attended the event in open defiance against his party leader, Nitish Kumar.

Speaking at the event, Sharad Yadav pledged to form another grand alliance, this time a national one, to defeat the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, The Times of India reported. “I would like to tell those who broke the grand alliance, that now, we will form a grand alliance at the national level,” he said, adding that he would visit every part of the country to form an alliance of “125 crore people”.

The JD(U) veteran also cautioned against mixing religion with politics. “If politics and religion mix, it will create troubles like in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said. “I will fight till my last breath. I have been a member of Parliament for past 43 years, but I will not hesitate to fight to protect the country from divisive forces.”

The JD(U) is in alliance with the BJP in Bihar. Reports have suggested that Sharad Yadav may be removed from his Rajya Sabha seat for not abiding by the party’s alliance decision.

Before the rally, Sharad Yadav told reporters that his JD(U) was the real JD(U). “Let’s wait for one or two months’ he said. “I will publicly prove that the JD(U) is our party.” He refused to comment on JD(U) warning him to not attend the rally.

In his speech, Lalu Yadav claimed that he had never wanted Nitish Kumar to be the chief minister of Bihar, reported NDTV. “I knew Nitish was not the right person [for the chief minister’s post], but I had to enter the grand alliance, keeping in mind the state of affairs in the country,” he said.

Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also attended the rally. Hitting out at the central government, she said, “They only made false promises,” IANS reported. “Three and half years have passed so far in the name of ‘achche din’. But the reality on the ground is different. Farmers are dying, youth unemployment is rising like never before, and common people are fed up with the price rise.”

“It is a government of the agencies, by the agencies and for the agencies,” Banerjee said, claiming that the Centre had changed the meaning of democracy. “The BJP and Modi have been using these agencies against opposition parties, against anyone who raises their voice.”

Communist Party of India leader D Raja joined the Yadavs, along with the RJD chief’s wife Rabri Devi and his three children at the rally. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad also attended, as did the Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav.

“The poor people and the farmers of the country are most distressed,” the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said. “We all have to work together to save the country.”

Akhilesh Yadav added that the Opposition wanted to make India a country of farmers and youngsters. He labelled the BJP a “digital party” and said the saffron party should look at the number of people attending the rally, reported The Times of India.

Ghulam Nabi Azad claimed that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had cheated the people of the state. “All leaders of national parties are with Lalu Prasad Yadav,” he asserted.

Lalu Prasad Yadav had invited leaders of 17 political parties to the anti-BJP event. Congress leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, however, are skipping the event.

JD(U) criticises rally

JD(U) spokesperson KC Tyagi reiterated that the grand alliance in Bihar had ceased to exist, reported The Indian Express.

Bihar JD(U)‘s Sanjay Singh said, “Instead of visiting flood victims, Lalu Prasad is busy showing his face as well as those of his two sons.” He called it a black day in the political history of the country.

CPI(M) skips rally too

No leader from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was present at the rally. “Our party General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, or any other representative of the party, will not attend the rally owing to Mamata Banerjee’s presence,” an unidentified CPI(M) leader told PTI.