In another attempt at damage control over the reservation issue in the last lap of the Bihar elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday said Mahagathbandhan leaders Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad had sought a review of the existing system in 2005 to provide for religion-based quotas.
“Lalu and Nitish did not even see eye to eye. On July 23 and 24 in 2005, Lalu and Nitish babu came on a common stage and sought a review, relook and change in the reservation policy on religious basis. Ambedkar, other Constitution builders, Rajendra babu (Rajendra Prasad), Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had opposed reservation on the basis of religion,” Modi said.
Denying that the BJP wanted a change in the policy, he added, “Today when you are caught, you are rattled… you are accusing us of spreading communalism. Your darbari people (courtiers) sitting in Delhi cannot help you win. It is the people who decide, not the Jantar Mantar-types.”
No political party in the country had “the power to take away and undo” reservation guaranteed to the weaker sections in the Constitution by B R Ambedkar, the PM said.
Speaking at a massive rally in Katihar in Seemanchal, one of Bihar’s most backward regions, with a high concentration of Muslims, the PM also called for Hindu-Muslim unity to fight poverty.
BJP leaders have been reiterating that they don’t want any change in the quota system ever since RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat stirred up a controversy seeking a review.
“When I criticised them (Nitish, Lalu) over the games being played by them and highlighted their speeches in Parliament (favouring religion-based reservation), they panicked and even their ‘masters’ in Delhi had fever,” Modi said.
Recalling one of his earlier speeches, the PM added, “We should decide who we must be fighting. Should Hindus fight with Muslims and should Muslims fight with Hindus? Or instead, should Hindus and Muslims fight unitedly to get rid of poverty? We should all fight together to eradicate poverty.”
Further attacking Nitish and Lalu, he said the JD(U) and RJD had been ruling Bihar for 25 years. “Twenty-five years is not a small period. I have not even completed 25 months. And who has benefited (in this time)? Did the people of Bihar benefit? Only Lalu’s family and Nitish’s friends benefited.”
Also attacking the Congress, Modi said, “Madam Sonia Gandhi’s party ruled Bihar for 35 years. Lalu was in power for 15 years and Nitish was chief minister for 10 years. They destroyed Bihar. You punished madam Sonia Gandhi’s party and it never came back. You then punished Lalu, who also never came back. Punish Nitish this time and throw him out.”
A government, Modi added, should be for the poor as the rich do not need a helping hand. The “stones” thrown at him by Nitish and Lalu daily would become steps for him to take Bihar forward, he said.
At another rally in Madhubani, the PM brought up the video purportedly showing Nitish with a ‘tantrik’, and said, “They have made fun of democracy. Those who don’t believe in democracy do ‘jantar-mantar’ (black magic)… Can you get electricity, water, employment, education by doing ‘jantar mantar’?… ‘Jungle Raj’ now has a twin brother in ‘jantar-mantar’. Don’t let ‘Jungle Raj’ and ‘jantar-mantar’ come together.”
Noting the presence of women at his election rallies, Modi said it was because they “know the problems of jungle raj, of kidnappings, and are seeking change”. “The number of women attending our rallies is higher than those during the Lok Sabha polls. The hint is clear.”
Modi also addressed a rally at Madhepura. He highlighted the work undertaken by his government for cleaning the Ganga, and recalling the devastation brought by the Kosi river a few years ago, said he was keen to serve the people there too. But “the arrogance of some” stopped him. Nitish had returned the financial assistance extended by Modi at the time.
(With PTI inputs)