Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a Rs 1.25 lakh crore package for poll-bound Bihar on Tuesday as the BJP attempted to showcase its development agenda to stave off a united opposition in one of India’s poorest states.
The NDA is planning to counter the traditional caste-based politics of the state with talk of boosting infrastructure and employment as it battles a four-party bloc led by chief minister Nitish Kumar in the possible October elections.
“This package proves I am a man who delivers what he promises. We have taken up the task to upgrade skills of crores of youth to create employment and stop migration. Skill development will change the face of this country like never before,” Modi said at a rally in Ara as thousands of supporters chanted his name.
The PM said the package would be in addition to Rs 40,657 crore pledged to ongoing highway and power projects — bringing the total to Rs 1.65 lakh crore — besides Rs 8,500 crore of unused money from Bihar’s last central package.
But analysts were skeptical about the outcome of the development push and said it appeared to be a poll ploy amid falling government investment in social sector schemes across the country.
Nitish mended fences with arch rival Lalu Prasad before the polls to ward off a surging BJP that has romped home in a clutch of state elections before stumbling in Delhi this February.
Modi said the Centre would fully support initiatives to connect Bihar’s interiors and fast-track development projects to stop migration from a state where investment has been hobbled by creaky infrastructure and potholed roads.
He also reiterated his latest slogan ‘Start Up India, Stand Up India’ to kickstart industrial employment creation, necessary for the state to shed its notorious Bimaru status — a cluster of Bihar, MP, Rajasthan and UP, with poor socio-economic indicators.
“The CM has said Bihar is not Bimaru anymore. If that is so, I am the happiest person. But if Bihar is not sick, why is the state government begging in front of the Centre,” the PM asked.
One of India’s most backward states, Bihar’s high crime rate and spiraling corruption have nixed development projects for years with industrialists shying away due to fears of political interference and hooliganism.
PM Modi announces Rs 1.25 lakh crore package for Bihar
The BJP is aiming to channel this discontent, especially among young voters, to scuttle traditional caste and religion equations.
At another poll meeting in Saharsa, Modi called on people to throw out the Nitish Kumar government for its “arrogance and insensitivity” in returning financial help from Gujarat after the 2008 Kosi floods. “Due to his sheer arrogance, he harmed tragedy-struck people by returning the Rs 5 crore cheque sent by the Gujarat government. The amount included Rs 5-10 lakh contributed by people of Bihar living in Gujarat,” he said.
“Is this conduct justified by any standard? Is it not fair to remove those who cannot shed their ego?”
He also took a jibe at the “unholy” Lalu-Nitish alliance, saying the JD(U) was trying to drag Bihar back to “jungle raj”, a reference to the poor law and order situation during the former RJD regime.