Addressing his first public rally since 2010 in Bihar,where the JD(U) parted ways with the BJP over his projection as the prime ministerial candidate,Narendra Modi on Sunday publicly engaged with Muslims,saying poverty was their prime enemy and his developmental credentials were the best antidote to it.
I want to ask poor Muslim brothers whether they want to quarrel with poor Hindus or fight against poverty. I want to ask poor Hindus whether their concern is disputes with poor Muslims or the fight against poverty. A poor Hindu has to fight against poverty and a poor Muslim also has to fight against poverty. Lets defeat poverty together, Modi said at a massive ‘Hunkar rally’ at Patnas Gandhi Maidan.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar ensured as an ally that Modi didnt campaign for the BJP in Bihar,and attributed his decision to cut 17-year-old ties with the BJP to the Gujarat CMs perceived anti-Muslim image. In his rally Sunday,Modi asked Muslims to shun this secular-communal discourse.
He talked about the prosperity of Muslims in Gujarat to stress that only development could help fight poverty,regardless of communities. My Muslim brothers go to Haj,for which the Government of India fixes a quota for each state. The quota for Gujarat is around 4,800. While for Bihar it is over 7,000 (it is actually 11,000),only about 6,000 go to Haj from the state. Poor Muslims (in Bihar) do not have money,how can they go to Haj? In contrast,about 40,000 applications are received in Gujarat, Modi underlined.
Kutch and Bharuch (in Gujarat) have the highest proportion of Muslims applying. Kutch and Bharuch also have the fastest development (in the state), he added. Starting his speech in the local dialects of Bhojpuri and Maithili,Modi drew an enthusiastic response from the huge crowd. Despite the blasts in and around the rally site,most of the people stayed back.
While Modi addressed Muslims towards the fag end of the speech lasting nearly an hour,his direct address to my Muslim brothers is a departure for the Hindutva posterboy of the BJP,which has always slammed selective pandering to Muslims as pseudo-secularism.
Accused of not following the raj dharma during the 2002 Gujarat riots,Modi reiterated Sunday that Constitution was the lone holy book for him as an administrator.
Moving on to Nitish,Modi said that while Bihar had given several railway ministers,he was the one who started as a tea vendor on trains and thus was in a better position to know the travails of the common man.
People of Bihar are not opportunists,except few, he added,in an obvious reference to Nitish.
My friend the Chief Minister (Nitish) and I were once sharing a table with the Prime Minister for a meal. He (Nitish) was reluctant to have the meal and was stalling for time. I had to tell him that there was no need to worry as there were no cameras around. There are limits to hypocrisy, Modi said.
He reminded the people of the BJPs role in installing continued…