Beginning his campaign for the dead-heat Bihar Assembly elections, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday addressed a joint rally with RJD leader and the Opposition alliance’s chief ministerial face Tejashwi Yadav, but their speeches reflected a striking contrast in approach and style.
Gandhi, addressing the joint public meeting in Hisua in Nawada district, launched a blistering attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi — in fact, referring to him by name or as Prime Minister some 20 times — on issues such as demonetisation, Chinese incursion, GST and his government’s handling of the pandemic and the exodus of migrant workers. He mentioned Chief Minister Nitish Kumar barely thrice.
Yadav, on the other hand, referred to Modi only thrice – that too in the context of special package and special status for Bihar – and focused his entire attack on Nitish Kumar, accusing him of failing to create jobs, ruining the healthcare and education system and ignoring the needs of farmers.
Yadav had been keeping his campaign centered on Kumar’s governance record of 15 years, deftly avoiding mention of national issues or taking on Prime Minister Modi.
And as he has been doing, he did not forget to mention Navaratri, saying he has come after paying obeisance to “Ma Durga” and has done a “kalash sthapana” (during which a resolve is taken), and asked people to take a vow to vote out Kumar.
Interestingly, the Congress too had been trying to keep the campaign limited to local issues until Gandhi addressed the rally. In his second public meeting in Baghalpur, where Tejashwi was not there, Gandhi made amends and attacked Kumar and spoke about Bihar more, yet kept the focus largely on Prime Minister Modi.
Gandhi began his address at the joint rally attacking the Prime Minister over the Chinese incursion.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he bows down before the soldiers from Bihar who had laid down their lives… but that is not the question… the question is, when Bihar’s young soldiers were martyred, that day what did the Prime Minister of the country say and what did he do? The question is when China killed 20 of our soldiers and took our land — 1200 (sq) km of India’s land China has occupied — why did our Prime Minister insulting our bravehearts and say that no one has entered Indian territory? You insulted the Indian Army when you lied that no Chinese soldier has entered Indian territory. The question is, when will you throw out Chinese soldiers from Indian land,” Gandhi said.
He went on to attack the Prime Minister on the issue of unemployment, asking him to tell the people of Bihar how many jobs he has given them, accused him of “working for Ambani and Adani”, and slammed him on issues such as demonetisation, GST and the farm laws. His focus on Bihar was only in the context of the hardships faced by migrant workers during the lockdown.
“When you were walking home hungry and thirsty, what was Modi saying? Did he help you… did he help Bihar’s migrants? And he says he bows down before workers. But when the time came, he didn’t help… When you were walking without food and water, he didn’t give you a train or bus,” Gandhi said.
Tejashwi, on the other hand, hit out at Kumar. “In 15 years, has Nitishji given you jobs, set up factories, stop migration, eradicate poverty, provide irrigation facilities for the farmers? Even those with jobs had their jobs snatched away by Modiji and Nitishji… sugar mills, paper mills, jute mills were closed down. Nitishji is saying Bihar is a landlocked state so factories can’t be set up. Nitishji, you are tired. You cannot handle Bihar anymore,” the RJD leader said.
“When UPA government was in power, didn’t Laluji set up rail factories? Wasn’t Bihar land locked then? Give me one chance. The first decision of my cabinet after I become chief minister will be to give 10 lakh government jobs… The Prime Minister came to Bihar today. We hoped you will say whether Bihar will get special status or not. You would say what happened to the special package that you had announced,” Tejashwi said.
He said his father Lalu Prasad will come out of jail on November 9 after securing bail. “Lalu ji is getting released on bail on November 9. He has got one bail and will secure another on November 9, which also happens to be my birthday. The next day, Nitishji will have his farewell.”
The fight, he said, is not between Nitish and Tejashwi or Rahul and Modi. The fight is between a dictatorial government and the people.
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