PM Modi makes Bihar pitch
The Opposition, however, slammed the PM for his silence on China, unemployment, and particularly the migrant crisis during the Covid-19 lockdown.Updated: Oct 24, 2020, 05:42 IST
Reminding Bihar of what he called the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s (RJD) “Jungle Raj” marked by lawlessness, destruction and corruption, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday made a strong pitch for the re-election of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) “under the leadership of Nitish Kumar” in the upcoming assembly polls to create an Aatmanirbhar (self-reliant) Bihar.
He also said that the Centre’s welfare measures, economic reforms and development programmes have benefited citizens; defended the state government’s handling of the pandemic; praised the valour of soldiers from Bihar in defending national security; and attacked the Opposition for speaking up for “middlemen” for personal benefit at the expense of national interest, and for aiding forces that want to “weaken” and “divide” the nation, and said India would stay firm.
On the first day of campaigning in Bihar, Modi — who addressed rallies in Sasaram, Gaya and Bhagalpur — declared that Bihar had made up its mind to re-elect the NDA to expedite development, and attempts to create “illusions” by “inflating the image” of select leaders or talking up the emergence of new forces will not work. His remark comes in the wake of reports of Opposition rallies, led by RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, generating substantial crowds.
Modi also paid tribute to the late Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) founder and his former Cabinet colleague Ram Vilas Paswan for being a champion of Dalits and the poor, but did not mention Chirag Paswan or the LJP’s decision to contest separately in the state, while being a part of the NDA nationally. He, however, asked for votes in all three speeches for only the four NDA constituents — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Janata Dal (United) or JD(U), Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP). After tracing the recent political history in Bihar, the PM also claimed that he and Nitish Kumar (who is the target of LJP’s and the Opposition’s attacks) had only got an opportunity to work together for three to four years so far and Bihar had a long way to go in its “development journey”.
The Opposition, however, slammed the PM for his silence on China, unemployment, and particularly the migrant crisis during the Covid-19 lockdown. “Workers from Bihar were chased away from Delhi and other states. They travelled on foot. When you were walking hungry and thirsty, did Modi help you? Did he help workers of Bihar,” Gandhi asked.
Modi’s speeches were marked by four big themes — a strong attack on the RJD, with an attempt to trigger memories of what he alleged was “misrule” during the period it was in power; a defence of the Centre’s rural schemes, recent agricultural reforms, and Swamitva scheme entailing the distribution of property identity cards to owners; a detailed defence of the progress made in Bihar, especially on economic and connectivity projects, and how this could only be sustained with the return of the NDA; and a general attack on the Opposition for its obstructionism.
In all his speeches, the PM focused on the past. He spoke of how there was a time in Bihar, when after sunset, everything was closed; when people didn’t buy cars so that “workers of one party” did not get to know of their earnings; when it was not certain if one was travelling from one town to another whether the person would get to the destination or get kidnapped on the way; when electricity was only in the homes of the prosperous; and when there was dacoity, murder, and extortion under those whose job it was to govern.
Without referring specifically to either the RJD or Lalu Prasad, who ruled in that period, the PM said, “In the 1990s, Bihar was pushed towards anarchy. You experienced it. The misrule of 90s is still at the root of today’s issues. Many young people are voting for the first time... Bihar has traversed a long journey. You are seeing a new Bihar, new systems. But there was a time when this was unimaginable.”
He then asked who voters would trust. “Bihar deserves a corrupt-free regime. Who will provide it — those who are enmeshed in corruption or those who fight it? Bihar is entitled to development. Who will provide it — those who have only enriched their families or those who have forgotten their families to serve the public,” he said, asking similar questions about industrialisation, investment, law and order, and education.
Second, the PM strongly defended the governance and welfare record of the NDA government — highlighting, in particular, schemes for rural housing, gas cylinders, toilet construction, electrification, bank accounts, loans through Mudra Yojana, health insurance through Ayushman Bharat, direct income transfer into accounts of beneficiaries, and the provision of free rations, along with other measures, during the pandemic.
He spoke about the recent agricultural reforms and how it would benefit farmers in Bihar.
Modi also extensively spoke of the government’s new Swamitva scheme, which entails the distribution of ownership rights in the form of property IDs, and said that this would be a huge relief in villages, and prevent and resolve disputes.
“Now, everyone in villages can get ownership rights; they will get legal documents; this will help resolve disputes in villages; property card will help them buy and sell property; they don’t have to worry about their homes being captured; and they can get loans easily from banks.”
Third, the PM spoke of how Bihar had seen rapid progress, especially in the sphere of electrification, road construction, provision of drinking water, bridges, irrigation and connectivity projects, and said that if it was not for quick decision-making during the pandemic in the state, many more lives would have been lost and there would have been “unimaginable chaos”.
Providing his perspective on how Bihar’s politics has evolved, Modi said there was an 18-month period (referring to Nitish Kumar’s alliance with RJD and their coalition government in 2015-17) when the CM realised that the alliance would not lead to Bihar’s development, but push back the state. “That is when he we came together again.”
He said that Bihar’s citizens should remember that he and Nitish Kumar have only got the opportunity to work together for three to four years, and while work has substantially improved in this period, there is a long way to go.
Finally, a consistent thread in the PM’s speeches was a more general attack on the Opposition for what he claimed was its consistent obstructionism even at the cost of public welfare or national interest.
“They are also willing to help those conspiring to weaken India. You tell me — wasn’t the country waiting for years to remove Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir? The NDA government decided it, but they want to reverse it. And then, they are asking for votes in Bihar, which sends its children to secure India’s borders. This is the land of jawans and kisans. I want to say clearly — they can take help from whoever they want; India will not step back from its decisions.”
The first of Bihar’s three phases of polling is on October 28; followed by voting on November 3 and 7.
The results will be announced on November 10.