Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday vowed to fulfill his promise of an economic package for Bihar but did not say when or how much, as he kicked off the BJP’s poll campaign in a state ruled by his friend-turned-rival Nitish Kumar.
However, the intense rivalry which marked the run-up to last year’s Lok Sabha polls was forgotten for the time being as Modi and chief minister Nitish Kumar shared the dais at a function in Patna and were seen warmly greeting each other and sharing a few laughs.
This was Modi’s first visit to Bihar after becoming the PM. He is also slated to address a political rally in Muzaffarpur, 80 km north-east of Patna.
“Before the Lok Sabha polls, I promised Rs 50,000 crore for Bihar (if elected)...I will fulfill my promise and announce the package at the right time. And I will go beyond what was promised," Modi told a large gathering at the event where he also inaugurated a slew of schemes.
He, however, played his cards close to his chest refusing to divulge the amount or time of his largesse to the state, where assembly polls are due late this year.
“This is not the moment to declare my intentions as to the full package worth that I have in mind. Bihar is on my prime agenda; it will come at the right time,” he said.
Kumar had broken off a 15-year-long association with the BJP-led NDA last year after Modi was named as the coalition’s prime ministerial candidate, a move seen as the Janata Dal (United) leader’s own ambitions.
The move boomeranged on Kumar with the BJP and its allies winning 31 of the state’s 40 seats while the JD-U was left with just two. The BJP alone won 22 seats.
In Bihar, the NDA is pitted against a combination of JD(U), Lalu Prasad’s RJD and the Congress, likely to be backed by the Janata Parivar and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Hours before the Patna event, Kumar tweeted: “We’re grateful after 14 months Modiji finds time to visit Bihar. As we get ready to hear more promises what about his old ones?”
The Bihar CM even posted what he termed as seven “critical issues”, including Modi's Lok poll promise on Bihar’s special status and bringing back black money stashed abroad.
With Kumar sitting beside him at the event, Modi responded, “I fully agree with the chief ministers concerns and share his pain and sense of hurt,” Modi said, alluding to the chief minister’s reference to railway projects that Kumar had conceived as the railway minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
The Prime Minister also subtly pointed out that it was Kumar’s ally Lalu Prasad who as the railway minister had blocked a project in Nalanda.
He, however, questioned how Bihar failed to develop despite the string of railway ministers the state gave to the nation. “We believe that Bihar always had a quota for railway projects with so many ministers, following one after the other,” he said, evoking laughter among the audience.
Earlier, Modi flagged off a railway line, a Patna-Mumbai AC Express, an IIT in the state capital and an incubation centre, among other schemes.