Hours before the multiple explosions, a crude bomb went off in a newly constructed toilet at Patna railway station, two kilometres from the venue in Patna, capital of the eastern state of Bihar where the party had shared power as a junior coalition partner of ruling Janata Dal (United).
Vimal Karak, deputy superintendent of Patna Medical College Hospital, said the five had died of blast injuries and the injured were being treated for the same injuries.
Five low-intensity bombs detonated on the outer periphery of the Gandhi Maidan, the venue of the rally, said Indian Home Secretary Anil Goswami.
One of the bombs exploded in front of a cinema near the venue, where tens of thousands of people had gathered, police said.
Immediately after the explosion at the railway station, bomb disposal units swept the area and recovered two more crude bombs, Railway Superintendent of Police Upendra Kumar Sinha said, adding a security man was injured while defusing a bomb recovered from the toilet.
People were seen rushing the injured to the hospital as the explosions sparked panic.
Plumes of smoke billowed from a couple of sites even as leaders of India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 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 sent teams of National Investigation Agency (NIA) and National Security Guard (NSG) to the state.
“I can’t say whether it was a terror attack or political conspiracy. Only after the investigation we will be able to tell anything,” Union Minister of State for Home RPN Singh said.
Modi later said he was saddened at the blasts. “Blasts in Patna are deeply saddening and unfortunate. Condolences with families of deceased and prayers with injured. I appeal for peace and calm,” the Gujarat chief minister tweeted.
Four persons have been detained from different areas of Patna and are being questioned by police, according to Patna Senior Superintendent of Police Manu Maharaj.