“Can one name a place in the subcontinent where there is no casteism? People from outside come here and denigrate us because we are tolerant. They should first tackle it in their own state (Gujarat) where Patidars are fighting for reservation.”
This is what Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said towards the end of a two-hour-fifteen-minute session of “Breakfast with the CM”, a unique interaction with reporters organised by the state Information and Public Relations department to conclude the “Bihar@2025” campaign.
The campaign has run into controversy for alleged misuse of government funds for Nitish’s poll publicity.
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Though Nitish tried to evade political questions and focused on issues like land disputes, open defecation and tourism infrastructure, he could not restrain himself from launching a veiled attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “There has been a conscious attempt to discredit me and not allow my government’s good work come to the fore. If the Centre helps, Bihar will scale heights of development. If not, it will still make progress,” he said.
Replying to a question on the “Bihari” sentiment that Nitish played up following Modi’s DNA barb at a rally in the state, Nitish said: “People come here and denigrate us because we are tolerant. It is a ‘chup-raho-ki-tum-Bihari-ho’ thing”.
The CM then switched over to the issue of casteism. “People unnecessarily defame Bihar with the caste tag. We should ask where does casteism not exist. All political formulations are based on caste. It is an evil but a common factor”.
Nitish said there had been “unnecessary hue and cry” over the Badh Chala Bihar campaign.
When asked why it was launched in the the poll year, the CM replied it was the right time to seek feedback. “After all, my yatras were also aimed at getting public feedback,” he said.
Speaking on the issue of electricity, a subject Modi repeatedly uses to attack the Nitish government, the CM said: “We are in plains and cannot talk much on hydel projects. We now have a power supply of 3100 MW. The Centre has been delaying some projects. BHEL has changed its completion date for a power project 14 times. We are committed to electrify all Bihar villages by November 2016. But it is up to the people to apply for electricity lines”.
Nitish agreed that places like Rajgir and Gaya need better insfrastructure for tourists, but added: “Some high-end tourists do not contribute to our economy, but rather put load on our system.”
The “Breakfast with the CM”, held at the state guesthouse from 9am, had a one-of-its-kind format. Only chosen journalists were allowed entry. They were also asked to fill a questionairre on education, infrastructure, tourism and health sectors. Journalists were not allowed to carry video or still cameras, but government cameras kept vigil.