Five people were killed and 83 injured in eight crude bomb explosions in Patna before Narendra Modi’s arrival in the city to address a rally in the city.
The Bihar police have arrested one person in connection to the blast.
According to sources, the suspect was picked from near Gandhi maidan where Modi held his rally. He was seen moving around suspiciously around the venue when the police picked him up. The police are not yet giving out the name of the arrested suspect as it could hamper the probe.
Based on his statements, the police have detained three more suspects and are questioning them. He said that he was one of the eight people, who was given the task to plant bombs across the city.
The confession comes close on the heels of an unexploded bomb being found under the dais at Gandhi maidan where Modi held a rally, said insiders.
Four of the eight blasts occurred on the outer periphery of the Gandhi Maidan. People were seen rushing the injured to the hospital as the explosions sparked panic.
An hour before that, a bomb exploded in a newly constructed toilet at the Patna railway station. "One person succumbed to his injuries after a bomb explosion at platform number 10 of Patna railway station," Additional Director General (law and order) S K Bhardawaj said. Sources tell rediff.com that not much damage has been reported at the railway station.
The bombs at the railway station, according to sources, were fitted with a timer device. However, bombs were not packed to cause any major damage and it appears that the aim was to scare the people.
Even as Bihar police officials rule out a terror angle, Intelligence Bureau said that there are chances that the motive was to divert attention from Modi’s rally.
IB officials say that a preliminary look at the blast points towards political rivalry. Such an attack creates panic and many may prefer to stay indoors.
The Bihar police said that it would explore all angles. “We are looking into the matter and as of now all we can say is that crude bombs were used,” informed Senior Superintendent of Police Manu Maharaj. “The area has been sanitised and the situation is now under control,” the police claimed.
Immediately after the explosion, the bomb disposal squad swept the area and discovered two more crude bombs, Railway Superintendent of Police Upendra Kumar Sinha said. One security personnel was injured while defusing a bomb recovered from the toilet, he said.
At the rally, plumes of smoke billowed from a couple of sites even as BJP leaders, including its prime ministerial candidate Modi, addressed the crowd.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the blasts and appealed for calm. He spoke to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and asked him to speedily probe the blasts and ensure that perpetrators are punished.
The home ministry has sought a report from the Bihar government on the explosions and is sending teams of National Investigation Agency and National Security Guard to the state.
"We are in regular touch with authorities in Bihar and have offered them all necessary assistance. We are trying to get more information," Minister of State for Home R P N Singh told PTI in Delhi, adding the Centre was ready to provide additional forces to maintain law and order.
The ministry has asked the state government to send a report about the nature of the bombs, suspected persons or organisations which could be behind it and steps taken to maintain law and order, official sources said.
The Centre also decided to send a team of explosive experts of the NIA to help the Bihar police in post-blast investigation, they said.
Station Manager of Patna Junction Raju Kumar said eleven trains booked by the BJP for the rally had arrived much before the blast. Patna City SP Jaykant said that security arrangements had been scaled up there.
The BJP demanded a probe into the blasts even as the incident triggered a political slugfest between the saffron party and its former ally Janata Dal-United.
"This blast cannot stop the youth from being part of Modi's rally. There is anger among people and they want to get rid of Congress and also other parties who are standing with it," BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said. "Investigation should be done so as to find out who is behind it," he said.
JD-U leader Sabir Ali questioned why "such incidents were happening after the JD-U parted ways with BJP".
"There is something suspicious. I can feel. They will divide the nation, divide the people only for power," he said.
A group of angry BJP workers and supporters protested against the explosions near Patna police control room and attacked police vehicles. The BJP in Bihar has expressed its anguish over the manner in which the case was being handled. Former Bihar deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi tweeted, "On hearing the explosions I called the DG of the state who told him not to worry, as it was a truck tyre that had burst."
Image: Smoke rises after a bomb exploded near Gandhi maidan in Patna where Narendra Modi addressed a massive rally on Sunday
Photograph: Krishna Murari Kishan/Reuters