Addressing his second rally in a fortnight in poll-bound Bihar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday made development his main theme, questioning why youths left the state in droves.
While not naming either Chief Minister Nitish Kumar or ally Lalu Prasad by name, Modi directed his attacks more at the RJD chief while asking how the JD(U) could tie up with him.
Charging the two with coming together due to “vested self-interest”, he said he didn’t know who was “Bhujang (snake) Prasad” and who “Chandan (sandalwood) Kumar”. Nitish had earlier set off a controversy with a tweet likening himself to “chandan”, which remains unaffected by snakes wrapped around it, with opponents interpreting the “snake” reference to be directed at Lalu.
“Zehar peene aur pilaane walon ka kya kaam (What is the need for those who offer or drink venom)?” Modi said, while expanding the JD(U) as “Janata ka daman and utpidan (people’s suppression and opression)” and the RJD as “Rozana jungle raj ka dar”.
While the PM’s speech did not include any caste references — his Muzaffarpur rally last month had set off a storm following Modi’s reference to Nitish’s DNA — Ram Vilas Paswan, who also spoke, said “everyone had separate DNA and Nitish’s DNA was not that of Bihar”.
Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi attacked Nitish for expressing displeasure over appointment of Ramnath Kovind as new governor. Kovind is a Mahadalit, and Manjhi, a Mahadalit himself, said Nitish had “insulted” him.
Addressing a large, excited crowd that mostly comprised youths, Modi said, “Bihar has over 80 lakh youths between 17 and 20 years of age and even if five lakh of them want to become engineers, the state has only 25,000 engineering seats. A much smaller state like Himachal Pradesh has 24,000 seats while Uttarakhand has over 40,000 seats. On an average, four-five lakh Bihar students leave the state to study. It means the state loses about Rs 4,000 crore per year on their education.”
He asked why Bihar consumed so little power. “The state’s power consumption is one-sixth that of a small state such as Sikkim, while Jharkhand gets five times more power than it.”
Blaming those who had ruled Bihar for 25 years, the PM told a responsive crowd, “You move one step ahead with me, I will move one and a quarter step ahead for you.”
According to Modi, while Delhi was “now with Bihar”, those in power in the state had squandered all help. “The one carrying a lantern (the RJD’s symbol) has kept you in the dark. The BJP has been able to take Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan out of BIMARU tag. There has been no concerted effort to exploit the immense tourism potential of Gaya that has the seat of Buddhism in Bodhgaya, and is the Hindu site for the pitrapaksha mela,” he said.
Referring to the Bodhgaya blasts of 2013, Modi asserted these had “shaken the faith of people internationally”. Attacking Lalu, he asked the crowd, “Do you want jungle raj Part II?… If one comes out of prison, one carries back ill habits.”
Raising the killing of a BJP worker in Patna, “right under his (Nitish’s) nose”, Modi said, “Is it not the beginning of jungle raj?”.
While Manjhi, who hails from Gaya, spoke in Magahi to strike a chord with the people, LJP chief Paswan compared Modi to”Krishna from Dwarka” who would tame “Kaliyanag” in the form of Lalu and Nitish. Modi described Gaya as “the workplace of Jitan Ram Manjhi”.
Controversial Union minister Giriraj Singh, who was given the charge of organising the Gaya rally along with colleague Ram Kripal Yadav, held centrestage.
With the Gandhi Maidan overflowing with people and many more gathered outside to hear him — several sporting saffron caps handed out by the BJP — Modi was clearly delighted. “Not even half this crowd was there when I came for the Lok Sabha campaign. I hail you,” he told the crowd.
A retired middle-school teacher from Guraru, Dhanushdhari Prasad, said Nitish would pay the price for severing ties with Modi, joining hands with Lalu and for removing Manjhi as CM. The Dalit vote, he said, would go to Modi because of the Manjhi factor.