Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed 30 rallies in the course of the Bihar Assembly elections beginning July 25. He started with talk of development, moved on to caste and, towards the last phases of the polls, his speeches took on religious overtones.
Around end October, in a reference to his backward origins, Modi referred to his “ati-pichhda (extremely backward) mother’s womb”.
* Between July 25 and mid-October, Modi held 12 rallies across Bihar, not once mentioning his caste or using words like ati-pichhda. On September 21, Bhagwat’s caste quota remark was reported. In the 18 more Modi rallies that followed, his caste and personal poverty became a dominant theme.
* October 25, Patna: “I often think that if Babasaheb Ambedkar had not been there, what would have happened to me? Ek ati-pichhdi maa ki kokh se paida hua, chai bechkar bada hua, ladka aaj yahan kaise pauncha (Born of the womb of an extremely backward mother, grown up selling tea, how did this boy reach so far)?” Modi said.
Later that day in Nalanda, he again invoked his “ati-pichhda” origin, adding, “The son of a chaiwallah became the Prime Minister.”
At Marhaura (Chhapra) hours later, Modi talked about his childhood experience of “selling tea on trains”. “When I sold tea in my childhood, sometimes such a babu would come… he would thrash us, throw us out of the train. I remember (it).”
* October 26, Buxar: For the first time, Modi brought in religion into his speeches. Trying to contain damage over Bhagwat’s remarks, he said Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad had earlier demanded religion-based reservation. “A ghost of reservation is being erected,” he said, accusing Nitish, Lalu and Sonia Gandhi of “framing a sinister plan”, “conspiring to snatch 5 per cent reservation each from Dalits, Mahadalits, pichhdon and ati-pichhdon and give it to (members of) other religion”.
* November 2, Forbesganj: The PM reiterated that Lalu and Nitish wanted reservation on religious grounds. “Take it from Dalits, Adivasis. Pichhdon se le lo, ati-pichhdon se le lo, aur unko de do. Are you fooling backwards? Are you fooling Dalits?”
* November 2, Darbhanga: Modi talked about the “Darbhanga module” and accused the Nitish government of sheltering terrorists. “Some people were running the module here,” he said, adding that when a “brave Dalit police officer tried to investigate, they forced the Dalit kanya to leave”.
* October 9, Sasaram: Modi said, “There is no yardstick where Bihar can stand tall before India. If it is, it is in crime, kidnapping and guntrotting.” Having earlier referred to the “Bihari DNA”, he kept criticising the state on various indices, saying it had the worst poverty in India and its 60 years of government had done nothing.
* October 30, Gopalganj: Referring to the Congress and Nitish, Lalu rules in Bihar for 60 years, Modi said, “I recently visited a labour colony in Dubai. Of all the labourers I met there, the maximum were from Bihar.”
* On November 1, Madhubani, he said, “Look at the condition of Bihar today. On per capita income, education and per capita power consumption, Bihar is at 29th rank in India… What all should I count? Jharkhand was a part of yours, but after separation it has moved ahead.”
This constant targeting of Bihar continued even after Nitish turned the contest into a “Bahari vs Bihari” fight.