'Mein teri juban kheinch loonga' has for long been the calling card of matinee idol Dharmendra, a monologue that has been lapped up by generations of cinema lovers. But when Union Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh flung the phrase at Chief Minister Nitish Kumar during a Press meet on Friday, he landed himself in a controversy.
Chastened by the JD-U leadership's demand for his immediate ouster from the Manmohan Singh Cabinet, Singh came out with an interesting clarification on Saturday. "Yes, those were tough words. But I only used them metaphorically. You see, such reference to body parts is fairly routine in Bihar," he said during his second interaction with the media in 24 hours.
Then, he moved God. "I urge the Almighty to give Bihar rulers the good sense to use central funds judiciously for the development of the state," he said, trying desperately to curb another outburst. "I am guarded in my responses today as I don't want to say anything that will make tomorrow's headlines instead of the issue I am raising," he confessed.
The issue was an extension of that matter that had raised his hackles on Friday: whether it was the UPA or the NDA that had done more for Bihar's development. The 'tongue' threat was provoked by the NDA leadership's charge that the Union Ministers from Bihar had done little to expedite the release of NHDP-III funds to the state, which was delayed by three years.
Singh had cited the recent Union Cabinet decision to release the funds for construction of 890 km of national highways in Bihar as the RJD Ministers' commitment to Bihar's development. But Road Construction Minister Nand Kishore Yadav, compared to a simian during the Friday outburst, reiterated on Saturday that no credit was due to the Ministers from Bihar.
"The NHDP Phase-III funds should have been released in 2004, when the UPA came to power. It was done just a few days ago, after a three-year delay during which other states have moved to Phase-VI. Even this could happen because Nitishji and I pressed the matter with the PM and Surface Transport Minister. The Ministers from Bihar did nothing," Yadav told HT.
For his part, Singh moved the UPA-versus-NDA development funding debate to a larger canvas. He furnished figures purporting to show that the UPA regime had released to Bihar three times the quantum of development funds during its first three years in office (2004-07) than the erstwhile NDA regime had done during its last three years (2001-04).
"When Rabri Devi was in power, the NDA regime at the Centre deprived Bihar of Rs 1,050 crore for its failure to furnish utilization certificates. But the UPA is relaxing rules to avoid a repetition," he asserted.