The BJP’s decision to field Prime Minister Narendra Modi as its main campaigner for the Bihar polls shows it is a matter of “do or die” for the party in the state, chief minister Nitish Kumar said on Wednesday.
“It is a case of do or die for the BJP in Bihar...By fielding Modi as its chief campaigner for the Bihar elections, the BJP has exhausted its most potent political weapon and will only go down from here,” he said.
“Till some months ago, the BJP thought it would win in Bihar but now I think they are worried,” Kumar said during an interaction with senior editors of Hindustan Times.
Questioning the Prime Minister’s motives for announcing a Rs 1.25 lakh crore
for Bihar just before the polls, Kumar dismissed it as a mere “repackaging” of existing development projects.
“There is nothing in the package. It is repackaging, there is no budgetary support for it,” he said at an event called as HT Unplugged. Kumar added some projects were six years old while others, such as the building of a new airport for Patna, had never taken off.
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Kumar sought to put a different spin on the battle for Bihar, saying the people’s ‘samman’ (dignity) had been hurt by Modi’s remarks about his (Kumar’s) “political DNA”.
“The people have been hurt. His (Modi’s)
were perceived as an insult to the people of Bihar,” he said. “I even wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister and asked him to retract his comments.”
Kumar described his Janata Dal-United’s partnership with the BJP in Bihar as a mistake and accused his erstwhile ally of being involved in efforts to foment communal unrest across the state for the past two years.
“They (BJP) have been doing things on a small scale to create communal tensions at a local level. This has been going on for the past two years,” said Kumar, whose party has formed an alliance with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) for polls to the state assembly expected by October.
The JD-U government is keeping a close watch on these activities to prevent any communal unrest, Kumar said.
The JD-U ended a 17-year alliance with the BJP in June 2013 after Modi was chosen by the National Democratic Alliance as its prime ministerial candidate for last year’s general election. The BJP swept the polls, powered by a campaign led by Modi.
Modi has repeatedly attacked Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad over the past few weeks, saying Bihar would see a return of “jungle raj” if the alliance wins the state elections.
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Kumar was critical of the BJP-led government at the centre, saying it is trying to “rewrite history” and tighten its grip on key institutions like the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).
“Their thinking is subjective, look at what is happening at the FTII,” he said, referring to protests by students since BJP member and little-known TV actor Gajendra Chauhan was appointed its chairman in June.
Kumar was also critical of the Central government’s handling of foreign policy, saying there was no need for the Prime Minister to play up the aid provided to Nepal in the wake of the devastating earthquake or the jingoism displayed by some ministers after a cross-border raid against militants in Myanmar.
Defending the JD-U’s alliance with the RJD, Kumar said it was what the people of Bihar wanted. “We contested some bypolls together successfully, so people wanted us to contest (the assembly polls) together so that the BJP will not get a chance to win,” he said.
Deflecting criticism for firming up an “opportunistic alliance” with the RJD’s “tainted” chief Lalu Prasad that revived fears of a “jungle raj”, Kumar said: “If there is jungle raj in Bihar, was it ‘mangal raj’ in Gujarat in 2002 (when the communal riots occurred)?”
He dismissed suggestions that the RJD-JD-U alliance was focussed on caste-based politics and accused the BJP of indulging in “caste politics in a crude manner and in an open way” ahead of the polls.
Kumar said the leaders of the alliance were together in the Janata Dal and parted ways for various reasons. Talking about his relationship with Lalu Prasad, he said: “We were together, we quarrelled and parted ways and now we’ve come together again.”
He was non-committal on the issue of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal campaigning for the RJD-JD-U alliance in Bihar. “Chief minister Kejriwal and I have a natural affection for each other, we support his demand for statehood for Delhi,” he said.
Kumar, who met Kejriwal on Wednesday afternoon, said the Delhi chief minister had been invited to attend an official function at Patna on August 27.
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