Janata Dal (U) on Saturday sparred with the BJP over Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's visit to the families of the victims of Patna serial blasts, accusing it of vitiating social harmony in the state.
BJP's prime minister candidate Narendra Modi and senior party leader Sushil Kumar Modi console the family members of Rajnarain Singh, a victim of the recent serial bomb blasts, in Patna. PTI Photo
In an oblique reference to Modi's address to the party's Hunkar (battle cry) rally on October 27, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar said "people of Bihar would sweep off the garbage people from outside are trying to dump in the state".
"A lot of broomsticks have been bought by the people on Dhanteras night to clean the garbage that came from outside," he said.
The ruling party questioned Modi why he never visited the families of those slain in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in his own state.
While JD(U) leader Shivanand Tiwari questioned the timing of the visit, his colleague KC Tyagi said Modi was behaving like those "cruel invaders from medieval era".
Tyagi said a large security entourage from Gujarat that travelled with Modi was an insult to the prestige of Bihar.
Reacting sharply to Nitish's anti-Modi barbs, senior BJP leader and former minister Giriraj Singh said the chief minister was behaving like a "dehati aurat" (rural woman) and quarrelling with Modi out of "jealousy".
Six people died in a series of explosions before and during the Hunkar rally, Modi's first major political show in rival Nitish Kumar's home turf after JD(U) and BJP, allies for 17 years, parted ways on June 16 this year soon after the Gujarat CM was nominated saffron party's PM candidate.
A week later, Modi returned to Bihar to commiserate with the blast victims' kin. He visited the families of victims in three villages and was prevented by bad weather from visiting the others. He spoke over phone to the family members whom he could not visit.
He was received warmly by the kin of four of the six blast victims whose houses he could visit during a fog-hit, whistle stop, chopper outing, the BJP said was meant to apply the 'healing balm'.
Modi later said in Patna he was not in Bihar for politics but only to empathise with victims families. "Yet, his message, main hoon na (I'm there for you), was there for all for all to see," said a BJP leader.
At Kamarji village (in Patna), Nisija (Kaimur), Tara Bariarpur (Begusarai) and Ahiyapur (Nalanda), the four places at which his chopper could land, Modi handed out a cheque of Rs. 5 lakh each to the next of kin of each of the victims.
Funded by the Bihar BJP, the amount contained in each cheque was meant to match the Rs. 5 lakh 'ex gratia' released and handed over by the Nitish Kumar government.
Bihar BJP president Mangal Pandey said Modi also promised to 'look into' various other demands of the closed relatives of the victims but did not give any specific assurance on this count.
BJP's prime minister candidate Narendra Modi consoles the family members of Rajnarain Singh, a victim of the recent serial bomb blasts, in Patna. (PTI Photo)(PTI11_2_2013_000011B)
Modi's chopper had to return back to Patna after weather at Gopalganj, where he was slated to meet the widow of blast victim Munna Srivastava, was not considered safe for a landing.
The other place he could not visit owing to the weather conditions was blast victim Bharat Rajak's native Simrahi bazaar in Supaul (north Bihar). But in each case, Modi used cell phone connectivity to reach out to the grieving family members.
He spoke to Munna's widow Priya Srivastava at Bari Dhanesh village in Gopalganj.
In his address to reporters at the end of the visit, Modi said he his conscience had pricked him to visit the victims' families.
He said the determination shown by the people of Bihar at Hunkar reminded him of the spirit the nation's freedom fighters exhibited in their struggle against the British.
"We have seen in films how British soldiers would charge at freedom fighters riding horses and how people will stay put despite being trampled. We saw a glimpse of that at the rally,"
Modi told reporters after visiting four of the six families who lost their kin in serial bomb blasts before and during the rally.
"The people at the rally saw bombs going off one after the other and despite carrying bloodied bodies on shoulders, they remained calm and displayed exemplary courage and determination," he added.
The Gujarat strongman said in his political life he has seen small rallies, comprising as many as 2500-3000 people, getting disrupted by the rumours of a cow running amok, but lakhs of people remaining steadfast in the wake of explosions would go down in history as an unparalleled event worthy of a university dissertation.
"Many universities study such cases. I hope after ample media coverage of what happened at the rally, some university will study this event. I bow before such determination," Modi said and did not take questions from reporters.
(With inputs from Prasun Mishra in Bhabua)
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Videos: BJP hands over cheque of Rs. 5 lakh to victim's family