Nitish Kumar takes stage, bats for welfare of Purvanchalis in Delhi
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar held a joint public address programme with Union home minister Amit Shah in North Delhi’s Burari on Sunday where he accused the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of being against Purvanchalis, a term often used to refer to people from east Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
This was the first event where both Shah and Kumar addressed the public in Delhi ahead of the Assembly polls on February 8. Kumar’s party, the Janata Dal (United) [JD(U)], is an ally of Shah’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and is contesting the polls in two seats — Sangam Vihar and Burari.
Kumar took the fight to the AAP, the incumbent state government, for “not fulfilling” promises on water, power and infrastructure. He also attacked the government for not implementing the central schemes. Citing the December 8 Anaj Mandi fire incident,in which several migrant workers from Bihar died, he pointed to the problem of open high tension wires in the Capital.
“In the last five years, Delhi has seen no development. Give us (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) a chance. We are capable of transforming every assembly constituency into a model for the rest of India,” he said.
The JD(U) has never won a seat in the Delhi Assembly. This is the first time that they have allied with the BJP in Delhi.
During a rally in October 2019, Kumar had said that his party shall contest the Delhi polls on its own and also endorsed Kejriwal’s demand of full statehood for Delhi. By the time he backtracked, JD(U) vice-president Prashant Kishor’s poll campaign agency I-PAC had teamed with the AAP for its assembly election campaign. Following a fallout between Kishor and Kumar, Kishor was expelled from JD(U).
Shah also addressed the crowd: “Delhi does not top any development parameter today. But there’s one parameter on which Arvind Kejriwal tops. It is the art of lying.” He went to draw a comparison between Kejriwal, with Adolf Hitler. He said, “ Kejriwal would have left Hitler behind when it comes to propaganda.”
For 20 minutes, Shah highlighted the achievements of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government on fronts ranging conferring ownership rights to over 4 million residents of 1731 unauthorised colonies in the city to successful implementation of an in-situ slum development programme and cleaning the Ganga.
Shah also spoke on scrapping the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and passing the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which has since triggered nationwide protests with the one at Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh grabbing headlines for over a month now.
“Kejriwal and his party members instigated violence in Delhi by misleading people against the CAA. And then he went on to say he stands with the protesters of Shaheen Bagh,” said Shah, throwing a similar question to the crowd - “Do you stand with Shaheen Bagh too?”
Most of them responded in the negative.
Kejriwal had blamed Shah for the law and order situation in Delhi even as he condemned violence during the anti-CAA protests in December. He later accused top BJP leaders of failing to have engaged with the Shaheen Bagh protesters, thus throwing the ball on the other side of the court. He had said, “These people are protesting against law introduced by the BJP government. It is their moral responsiblity to engage with them.”
Kumar, on the other hand, has given mixed signals to the issue of CAA. While his party voted in favour of it in both Houses of the Parliament in December, he later went on to say that he is open to “debate” over CAA in the Bihar assembly. In Burari, Kumar stayed away from speaking on CAA and focused his speech on the poorvanchali vote base, a term popularly used to refer to migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. He often accused the AAP as an “anti-poorvanchali” party, often citing one of Kejriwal’s old comments on how large number of people from states such as Bihar avail services in Delhi’s government hospitals.
The AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh hit back issuing a statement alleging BJP and their allies as anti-migrants. He said, “Poorvanchalis were beaten up in states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat under BJP’s rule.”