A day after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar showed his displeasure with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, it was Modi’s turn to obliquely settle scores.
At the BJP rally here on Sunday, Modi praised the development he was seeing in Bihar, repeatedly praising deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi — who belongs to the BJP — for it, without once naming Nitish.
Nitish had been annoyed by advertisements in the local press that tom-tomed the Gujarat government’s contribution to Bihar following the devastating Kosi floods of 2008, which was accompanied by a picture of Modi and Nitish together. Given the Muslim antipathy to Modi and the fact that Bihar goes to polls later this year, Nitish was keen to keep Modi at arm’s length. Nitish cancelled the dinner he had planned with BJP delegates. He also offered to return Gujarat’s flood relief contribution.
Modi responded by stressing the deep ties between Gujarat and Bihar — from Mahatma Gandhi’s campaign in Champaran to Jayaprakash Narayan guiding the 1975 Nav Nirman movement in Gujarat.
“When there was a massive earthquake in Gujarat in 2001, Biharis reached there, helped us and wiped our tears. I bow to Bihar for that help today,” he said, amid applause.
But Modi could not resist unflattering comparisons either. “Nobody in Gujarat knows what a power cut is,” he said. “People in Bihar hardly know what (electric) power is.”
With the Bhopal gas tragedy revived following the verdict last week, Modi said: “There are reports about how the then Congress governments helped Warren Anderson, (the chairman of Union Carbide, at whose factory the gas leak occurred) escape... Why is Soniaji silent on the issue?”
The Congress predictably took umbrage. “This is the brand of intellectually, morally and politically bankrupt politics which is being practiced by Narendra Modi,” party spokesperson Jayanti Natrajan said.