Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Nitish Kumar as “Loktantrik” and Lalu Prasad as “tantrik” Sunday. He was playing on a video gone viral that shows Nitish with a tantrik, who is heard asking the CM why he has teamed up with Lalu, and saying, “Nitish zindabad, Lalu murdabad.”
Modi, who addressed a series of rallies, asked his audience in Hajipur if they could support Nitish when he believed in superstition. “Does it befit the CM of a state to believe in ghosts and meet a tantrik? Bade bhai (Lalu) calls himself a tantrik. Is it not an insult to the 21st century? Let me know if Bihar needs a tantrik or a sevak,” he said.
Modi announced a six-point development mantra for Bihar. “Bijli-sadak-paani for Bihar and padhai-kamai-dawai for people of Bihar. These six things address every problem,” he said. Later, the JD(U) in Patna described this as an imitation of Nitish’s seven-point development agenda.
At most places, Modi kept coming back to the tantrik theme. In Nalanda, Nitish’s home district, the PM used the “Loktantrik” prefix for him at least eight times. “Nitish thinks only tantriks can save Bihar,” he said, then described the tantrik as a “fourth ally” in the maha gathbandhan. He said he had known of only three players in that alliance — “Bada bhai”, “Chhota bhai” and “Madam”. “For the first time I have come to know there is also a fourth player, a tantrik,” Modi said. “We don’t want jantar mantar of the 18th century, Bihari’s youth want computers to move into the modern age.”
In Chhapra, once the pocket borough of Lalu, Modi said, “Laluji, you are free to sacrifice a black or a white pigeon or blow chilli smoke. If you have to do that, rename your party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, as Rashtriya Jadu-tona Party. And being the head of the party, you will be the biggest tantrik in the world.”
The PM also attacked Nitish for failing to act against horaders and hit back at him for referring to the polls as a “Bahari versus Bihari contest. “I want to ask both Laluji and Nitishji why state governments failed to check migration of Bihar youth for higher education. Who forced the pride, capital and dream of my Bihar, the youth, to go out of the state? It is Nitish and Lalu who have turned Biharis into Baharis in the last 25 years,” he said in Hajipur.
A key feature of his and BJP leaders’ addresses was an overt attempt at wooing EBC voters by identifying himself with them. Modi said Nitish was obsessed with him because the CM too, wanted to be Prime Minister. “Nitish is worried. He has been doing this forward-backward divisive politics for 30 years and out of nowhere comes this extremely backward… Yeh pradhan mantri kaise ban gaya?”
In the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had not used Modi’s caste identity (he is a Ghanchi) explicitly. On Sunday, before Modi’s arrival in Nalanda, one speaker, introduced as the messiah of ati pichdas, told the crowd the PM is from an ati pichda family. Jharkhand Health Minister Ramkumar Chandravanshi said he is from a caste that is on Bihar’s EBC list.
The EBCs are one of the few groups that are seen as not yet having made up their minds. Modi sought to connect with them, saying, “…Yeh chaiwale ka beta, ati pichde parivar mein paida hua gareeb ma ka beta, pradhan mantri kaise ban gaya?.
He said a BJP government would not change the reservation policy, pointing out that he was Gujarat CM for 14 years and did not change it. “Babasaheb Ambedkar gave it to you. I will not take it away; Atalji’s government did not take it away,” he said.
With PTI in Chhapra