In the BJP’s first major event in Bihar post the fall of the NDA government in the state, Union Home Minister Amit Shah Friday said people of Seemanchal region had nothing to fear as there was leadership of Narendra Modi at the Centre.
Indirectly hinting at “infiltration” from Bangladesh and the “rise in Muslim population” — issues raised by most Bihar BJP leaders at the event – Shah said: “I have come to tell people of seemavarti (bordering) districts that now that Lalu has joined (the Bihar government) and Nitish Kumar is sitting in the lap of Lalu, there is an atmosphere of fear. I have come to tell you that seemavarti districts are part of India and nobody has any need to be afraid… There are apprehensions among people… you have no reason to fear as there is the Narendra Modi government at the top… Nobody can dare do manmaani (excesses).”
Other BJP leaders, who spoke before Shah, were more direct in their references. Rajya Sabha MP and former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi said: “In 1951, 30% of Purnia’s population was Muslim. In 2021, it is 45%. The average growth in Muslim population in Purnia was 15% and Katihar 10%.”
Calling for a “thorough investigation into matters of infiltration”, Modi also brought up the radical Islamist outfit PFI, which saw raids across the country by the NIA on Thursday.
Union minister Giriraj Singh, who was in-charge of the Purnia meeting, asked people at the rally if “Bangladeshi infiltrators should be driven out or not”.
Former Union minister and MLC Shahnawaz Hussain, who was part of the NDA government in Bihar led by Nitish, attacked the JD(U) leader for his “appeasement” politics.
Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said infiltration may have come down “since 2014”, but remained a challenge and the state government’s cooperation was needed to tackle it.
In his speech, Shah also said: “Some people are saying that I have come here to make people fight. Let me make it clear that it is the work of Lalu Prasad.”
Pitching a development agenda for the backward Bihar region, Shah listed the projects carried out or sanctioned by the Modi government in the four Seemanchal districts of Purnia, Katihar, Araria and Kishanganj, and promised an airport at Purnia.
Listing grants such as Rs 1,000 crore for a national highway, plus funds for other roads, Rs 1,000 crore for an A P J Abdul Kalam Agriculture College, Rs 1,900 crore for a bridge over the Ganga near Manihari (Katihar), and Rs 45,000 crore for the Khagaria-Supaul rail division, Shah harked back to Modi’s famous speech in 2015 promising Bihar a “Rs 1.25 lakh crore package”. Nitish had contested the elections as part of the Mahagathbandhan, also comprising the RJD and Congress, while the BJP had fought separately.
“After seven years, I am accounting for Rs 1.35 lakh crore expenses for Bihar… Can Nitish Kumar give account for his works?” Shah said.
The BJP leader attacked the JD(U) leader for his frequent change of parties, having moved to the BJP in 2017, and then returned to the Mahagathbandhan now. Calling Nitish “a habitual betrayer”, Shah said he pursued the politics of “swaarth aur satta (selfishness and power)”.
“For his PM ambition, Nitish betrayed the politics of anti-Congressism (JP Movement), of which he is the product,” he said, warning RJD leader Lalu Prasad that he could next “ditch him for the Congress”. Nitish had earlier “betrayed George Fernandes, Sharad Yadav, Lalu Prasad, Jitan Ram Manjhi, Ram Vilas Paswan and the BJP twice”, Shah said, adding Nitish “could leave socialism for the Left, the RJD for the BJP. His only policy is to keep his chair intact”.
The Union Home Minister added that PM Modi had “dared remove Article 370”. “Can Nitish Kumar dare praise us?” In a reference to the CBI cases against RJD leaders and the party’s criticism of the agency, Shah said: “Nitishji, would you want to ban the CBI (from Bihar)?”
Shah, who earlier held a meeting of the Bihar BJP’s core committee where the party’s strategy was discussed, said that the party would not align with the JD(U) leader again. “We have had enough of giving Nitish the benefit of doubt.”
Interacting with the crowd intermittently in Modi’s style, Shah asked:”Do you want Rahul Baba (Rahul Gandhi) or Narendra Modi as PM again?”
He also asked the people if they wanted the return of “jungle raaj”, “one of extortion and kidnapping and caste violence”.
During his visit, the Union Home Minister held a separate meeting with security forces in Kishanganj to assess the situation along the Bihar districts bordering Bangladesh and Nepal. In his speech, Shah said Bihar had been “freed of Left-wing extremism” under the Modi government.