Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a scathing attack on leaders of the RJD-JD-U combine on Saturday as he rolled out the NDA’s campaign for assembly polls in Bihar, singling out chief minister Nitish Kumar for criticism.
Modi began his day-long visit to Bihar by sharing a stage with Kumar in Patna, where the Prime Minister launched a slew of projects and said he would provide an economic package of more than the Rs 50,000 crore he had pledged last year before the general election.
The two leaders were seen warmly greeting each other and sharing a few laughs but Modi was unsparing when he addressed a “Parivartan Rally” in Muzaffarpur, 80 km northeast of Patna, to kick off the National Democratic Alliance’s campaign.
He said there is something wrong with Kumar's “political DNA” that led the Janata Dal-United leader to ditch friends who worked with him.
“I was hurt when he withdrew his support. But when he did the same thing to a Mahadalit such as Jitan Manjhi, then I figured out there is something wrong in his political DNA," Modi said, referring to the JD-U's split with the BJP in 2013.
“What happened to those who worked with (Kumar)? To George Fernandes? To our (BJP's) Sushil Modi who once worked shoulder to shoulder with him?" he asked.
The JD-U and the BJP were allies in Bihar for 15 years till they split ahead of the 2014 general election over the projection of Modi as the NDA's prime ministerial candidate. Since then, Kumar has been one of the strongest critics of Modi.
Modi said Kumar broke up with the BJP for personal gain. “If you hated me so much you could have come into my room and slapped me or strangled me. But you throttled the development of Bihar because of your problems with one man," he said.
The Prime Minister also lashed out at Kumar’s ally Lalu Prasad, saying his Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) stood for “rozana jungle raj ka dar (fear of jungle raj everyday)”.
Referring to Kumar's mocking tweet about his visit to Bihar 14 months after he became the Prime Minister, Modi said, “See how the suffering of your own people makes you worried and desperate. The chief minister is upset I came after 14 months. Don't worry, your suffering is over. I am here now.”
Modi asked Bihar’s voters to pick a “single-engine train” to drive growth, a reference to the combination of the RJD, JD-U and the Congress for the polls to be held later this year.
Security was tight at events attended by Modi in view of the bomb blasts that killed six people during his rally in Patna in 2013, shortly before he took the stage.
In Muzaffarpur, Modi repeated his promise – made earlier in the day in Patna – that he will announce a special economic package for Bihar. “I had promised a Rs 50,000-crore special package for Bihar (ahead of the Lok Sabha polls). I can't announce it now as Parliament is in session. As soon as the session ends, I will announce it," he said.
Modi, making his first visit to Bihar after becoming the Prime Minister, told the gathering in Patna that he “will go beyond what was promised” when he announces the economic package.
In Patna, Modi flagged off a railway line, a Patna-Mumbai AC express, highway, gas and energy projects, an IIT in the state capital and an incubation centre. He promised the impoverished state billions of dollars for infrastructure projects in a bid to win support ahead of the crucial elections.
Kumar’s decision to end ties with the BJP boomeranged on the JD-U as the BJP and its allies won 31 of Bihar’s 40 Lok Sabha seats in last year’s general election while the JD-U was left with just two.
The country’s third-most populous state has never been ruled by BJP on its own and elections have traditionally been won by regional parties and alliances.
(With inputs from HT Correspondent in Muzaffarpur)