Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar took to a counteroffensive on Wednesday over allegations of forming an opportunistic poll alliance and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP of pursuing a “caste-centric and communal” political campaign.
“The saffron party has been projecting Modi as an OBC Prime Minister while systematically conducting a low-decibel campaign to create small communal conflicts in the state’s hinterland for the past two years in an apparent bid to polarise voters,” Kumar said at an informal interaction with HT editors.
Slamming the PM for insulting the sensitivities of the people of Bihar with his “disparaging manner” of announcing a financial package for the state and for rude comments such as the “DNA” barb against Kumar, the Bihar CM elaborated on his central campaign theme of “Bihari Asmita (pride) versus the communalism of the BJP” at a session titled HT Unplugged.
Rubbishing the PM’s Bihar package as merely a “re-packaging of routine schemes”, the JD(U) leader said the timing of the announcement was suspect, as it also showed the BJP’s desperation.
“The decision to field the Prime Minister as the chief campaigner reveals the saffron party’s nervousness. The BJP apparently sees the Bihar battle as a do-or-die situation and has now exhausted its last option by fielding Modi. The party will only go down from here,” he said.
Asked about speculation over the “return of jungle raj” in the state following his decision to tie up with the scam-tainted Lalu Prasad of the RJD, Kumar pointed out that the RJD and the Congress were already supporting partners of the JD(U) government in Patna, quipping: “If there is jungle raj in Bihar, was it ‘mangal raj’ (all-round welfare) in Gujarat in 2002 (when the communal riots happened)”.
Justifying the decision to align with the RJD, Kumar said the country’s political landscape had radically transformed in the past decades with the rise of the BJP at the expense of the Congress, adding that the need of the hour was to firm up fresh “political re-adjustments” to fight the communal forces.
“Laluji and I were together in the past until we split - and have come together again now,” he said.
Terming the “return of jungle raj” argument as a product of whisper campaigns being spread by the BJP and its affiliates, Kumar said the existing reality was entirely different, as revealed by National Crime Records Bureau data.
“Bihar finds the 18th spot in the NCRB data for 2013,” he said.