A combative Narendra Modi on Tuesday challenged the Nitish Kumar-led grand alliance for a report card on its combined 25 years in power in Bihar, raising the stakes in the high-pitch poll battle in a state considered crucial for the NDA.
Elections for Bihar’s 243-member assembly seats are due later this year and Tuesday’s rally in communally sensitive Bhagalpur was the Prime Minister’s fourth in a series of campaign meetings in the state.
Modi has of late stepped up his attack on the recently-finalised grand alliance comprising the ruling Janata Dal (United), Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress, all three coming together to fight the assembly polls jointly with the avowed goal of defeating the BJP.
“I was elected in 2014 to Parliament but they are asking me the reasons for Bihar’s plight. I will place a report card before the people when I go to them again in 2019 on how I ruled (at) the Centre. Every paisa spent will be accounted for, also, each minute utilised by my government. All the hows and whys of my rule as PM will be answered then,” Modi told a well-attended rally held at an abandoned airfield dating back to World War II.
He then put a question to the Nitish-Lalu combine, “But tell me, is the grand alliance ready to tell the people, how it utilised the last 25 years in power and achieved what in that time span?”
Bhagalpur, where communal riots had left more than 1,000 people dead in 1989, is around 300 km east of capital Patna.Modi urges crowd to climb down poles at Bihar rally
Modi also mocked the Bihar government’s promise of financial package, which he said was announced as a counter to the Centre’s Rs 1.25 lakh crore.
“For 25 years, the grand alliance constituents have tried hard to spread the poison of caste and communalism, but the fact that my package has forced them to offer another, a larger package, is good for Bihar…If both the NDA and UPA offer such packages, Bihar can only benefit and I am happy that it is me who forced them back to the actual discourse,” Modi added.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar had parted ways with the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha polls last year after the NDA named Modi in a position which virtually made him the coalition’s prime ministerial candidate. It was confirmed a few days later.
Recently, Modi had said that there was something wrong with Kumar’s “political DNA”, a comment which had triggered a war of words between the two.
On Tuesday, even as Modi was addressing the rally, chief minister Nitish Kumar sent out a series of Tweets criticising the Prime Minister’s “chest-thumping”.
“Modiji, stop the rhetorics, chest thumping & everyday new promises. Show moral courage. Respect the sentiments of people of Bihar who have been troubled by your unkept promises & unsavoury comments,” Kumar said.
He also demanded that the Prime Minister takes back his “derogatory” words on questioning the DNA of Bihar, calling the state ‘Bimaru’ and the people ‘unfortunate’.
(With agency inputs)