Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a blistering attack against the Nitish Kumar-led grand alliance on Tuesday, accusing it of “cheating” people as he pushed development to the forefront of Bihar’s looming poll battle.
Returning to the eastern state the fourth time in little over a month for a parivartan (change) rally, Modi said people of Bihar were “intelligent” enough to call chief minister Nitish Kumar’s development vision bluff as he tried to soften the DNA barb, which the CM claimed had hurt Bihari pride.
Elections to Bihar’s 243-member assembly are due later this year and dates may be announced during the week. It is a high-stakes battle for the BJP-led NDA alliance whose winning streak in the states snapped early this year with a humiliating defeat in Delhi.
Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), once an NDA partner, has joined hands with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress to take on 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,” Modi told a well-attended rally at an abandoned World War 2 airfield in Bihar’s silk town. Was the grand alliance ready to give an account of its 25 years in power, the PM asked.
Modi accused Kumar and Prasad, both products of the JP movement, of abandoning the legacy of socialist icons Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan by aligning with the Congress.
“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,” Modi said.
Kumar had mocked the Centre’s Rs 1.25-lakh crore package. “But, when he realised that people of Bihar, who have sharp intelligence, have seen through his game, he changed tack… He used the same issue for which he was abusing me and came out with a vision of development of`2.7 lakh crore,” Modi said.
At an earlier rally, the PM had said there was something wrong with Kumar’s “political DNA”, triggering a war of words with the Bihar CM. The intelligent Bihari remark is being read as an attempt to undo the damage caused by the DNA jibe though Kumar again asked the PM to take back the remark.
“Modiji, stop the rhetorics, chest thumping and everyday new promises. Show moral courage. Respect the sentiments of people of Bihar who have been troubled by your unkept promises & unsavoury comments,” Kumar tweeted.
Bhagalpur, where communal riots left more than 1,000 people dead in 1989, is in a region where the NDA faces its toughest challenge.
It will have to do well in eastern Bihar, a JD(U)-RJD stronghold, if it wants to win the state.
(With agency inputs)