Modi, Nitish clash over Bihar's BIMARU tag, 'jungle raj' threat

Modi, Nitish clash over Bihar's BIMARU tag, 'jungle raj' threat
Gloves were off in Bihar's electoral arena today with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar attacking each other over the state's BIMARU tag and the former warning of a return of the "jungle raj" if JD(U)-RJD alliance were to come to power after the state polls.

Making a dash for the state for a second time in a fortnight to drum up support for NDA ahead of the assembly polls, Modi repeatedly invoked the spectre of "jungle raj", the epithet used to describe alleged misgovernance during the Lalu-Rabri rule, as he attacked the newly-formed JD(U)-RJD coalition calling it "politically opportunistic".

"If Jungle Raj part II arrives, everything will be ruined. During Jungle Raj part I there was no experience of jail, which would be there now. Nobody learns good things in jail," Modi said, addressing a public rally in Gaya, referring to RJD boss Lalu Prasad's incarceration in the fodder scam and highlighting the perceived dangers for the state in voting the JD(U)-RJD alliance to power.

He also raked up the issue of BIMARU (laggard) tag of Bihar and promised to remove it within five years of a BJP-led NDA government assuming the reins.

"If you want Bihar to be out of the category of BIMARU states, hand over the reins to a BJP government....an NDA government which has capable leadership of people like Jitan Ram Manjhi, Ram Vilas Paswan, Upendra Kushwaha and Sushil Kumar Modi," he said.

"Give us five years, we will ensure that Bihar gets out of the 'BIMARU' category," he said, adding that under BJP's leadership, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have come out of it and were moving fast on the path of development, like BJP-ruled Haryana and Gujarat.

Stung by the BIMARU jibe, an angry Kumar shot back and asked the Prime Minister to get his facts right, while launching a counter offensive over his "jungle raj" remark, reminding him of the situation that prevailed in Gujarat during the 2002 riots that prompted the then NDA Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to advise Modi, who was the Chief Minister, to follow "Raj Dharma".

"He said Bihar is a BIMARU state. Bihar's growth rate, performance on social indices like education and health care present a picture which does not show it is a laggard state. He should have his facts right. Nobody will like to make a joke of himself by calling Bihar a BIMARU state," Kumar told a press conference in Patna, hours after PM's rally.

Kumar also took umbrage against Modi coining new nomenclatures for RJD (Rojana Jungle Raj ka Dar) and JD(U) (Janata ka Daman aur Utpidan) to highlight the threat of "jungle raj" (the rule of the jungle) and said,"Why doesn't he remember Vajpayee's advice of following Raj Dharma after the Gujarat riots. Such a situation has never been witnessed here."

In a tit-for-tat, he also coined a new name for BJP, while recalling Amit Shah's statement about Prime Minister's promise of bringing back black money stashed abroad that it was mere "jumla" (platitude).

"People will now call it 'Bhartiya Jumla Party'...I even saw an advertisement which described it as 'Bada Jhootha Party'," he said.

Unlike his 'DNA' remark targeting Nitish Kumar, made at a rally in Muzaffarpur on July 25 that created controversy and drew a sharp response from the Bihar Chief Minister, Modi today made no personal remarks against him, but targeted him over alleged lack of development under his stewardship.

"These people holding the lantern have kept Bihar in darkness," he said, referring to RJD's election symbol as he targeted the Nitish Kumar for failure to reach electricity to every part of the state.

"Today, the per capita power consumption in a tiny state like Sikkim is 1000 kw, while in Bihar it is a meagre 150 kw. Even Jharkhand that was born out of Bihar consumes five times more," he said.

Asserting that only NDA could change Bihar's destiny for the better, Modi said education, a key ingredient for economic progress, had been neglected during the last 25 years.

"There are 80 lakh people in Bihar who are aged between 17 and 20 years. They need technical education and skill development.

"But there are only 25,000 engineering seats in Bihar, against 1.13 lakh in neighbouring Orissa, 1.04 lakh in a smaller state like Punjab and 40,000 in tiny Uttarakhand," he said, adding people of the state have only suffered "arrogance and deceit" over the last 25 years.

Modi said around four lakh Bihari students were studying in engineering colleges in other states resulting in a loss of about Rs 4000 crore to Bihar every year.

Kumar hit back following Modi's comments about lack of technical institutes in the state, saying "He compared engineering seats in Bihar to those in Punjab and Orissa. He should have spoken about Gujarat or how many jobs his government has given to engineering graduates."

Rebutting Modi's criticism over lack of development, Kumar accused him of "bias" against the state.

"He promised special status for the state but backed out. Bihar has suffered a proportional loss of Rs 50,000 crore because of the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission. It is still to receive Rs 9,000 crore compensation following the birfucation and creation of Jharkhand," Kumar said.

"Still, even now if they talk of pursuing cooperative federalism, there cannot be a bigger betrayal. What you say, you don't do. You signed the Naga peace accord but states impacted by it were not taken into confidence. Where is cooperative federalism?" Kumar said.

On Modi's call to voters to elect an NDA government for rapid development of the state, Kumar said it went against the tenets of "cooperative federalism".

"He is threatening the people to vote for BJP. When states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were lifted out of BIMARU status some 10-12 years back, NDA was not in power at the centre," he said.

Modi, in his speech at the Gaya rally, termed the alliance between JD(U) and RJD as one "forged out of political opportunism".

Modi said,"Will the coalition survive after the elections are over. Those who drank poison will they spew it after the polls. Where will it fall? In people's plate. Should you allow them to do that?

"I don't know who's Bhujang (snake) Prasad and who's Chandan (sandalwood) Kumar in Bihar. Who's serving poison and who's drinking it, but together they will create a poisonous environment in Bihar when elections are over," he said.

After Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's anointment as the secular alliance's chief ministerial candidate, Lalu had said he was prepared to even drink poison to defeat communal forces, which many saw as reflecting the unease in the coalition.

Later, when asked during a public interface on Twitter about how will he take forward the state under a coalition which had Lalu Prasad's RJD as a partner, Kumar created a flutter by citing a couplet of poet Rahim which said "sandalwood tree gathers no poison despite venomous snakes wrapping themselves around it." Many felt the snake's reference was to Lalu.

Presenting a united picture of the NDA in the state, BJP's alliance partners--Ram Vilas Paswan of Lok Janshakti Party, Upendra Kushwaha of Lok Samata Party and Hindustani Awam Morcha (secular) leader and fomer state chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi shared the dais with Modi. Many rebel JD(U) MLAs including Gyanendra Singh Gyanoo, Rahul Sharma, Rajib Ranjan and Anil Kumar were also seen on dais.

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