|BJP members serve food to party supporters ahead of the Hunkar Rally at Gandhi Maidan on Sunday.
Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey
First, the blasts tore through Gandhi Maidan, then Narendra Modi tore through Nitish Kumar with details of the palatable food he had dished out to his “friend”.
“The Bihar chief minister is my friend. Once, in 2008 he (Nitish) was in Gujarat to attend a wedding where I, too, was present. I fed him all Gujarati delicacies — dhokla, thepla, jalebi and many other varieties of Gujarati sweets. Poora pet bhar kar khaye (he had his stomach full),” said the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
“I took special care of my chief minister friend, because he was a guest in my state. I’m happy I fed him well, for we adhere to Bhartiya sanskriti (Indian culture), which calls upon us to take good care of guests and conduct ourselves in the public sphere,” Modi said.
The Gujarat chief minister — in his first ever attack on Nitish — did not once mention how Nitish had denied the BJP’s national executive members dinner ahead of the 2010 Assembly polls. But he narrated another story to show what a “hypocrite” Nitish was. Modi said: “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had once thrown a party for chief ministers. Incidentally, my Bihar friend (Nitish) and I got seated on the same table. The food was served. But, to my surprise, I found my friend was not eating, just looking here and there.”
“I asked my friend. What is the problem? You are not eating. Please eat. There are no press cameramen around,” he said to shrill applause from the lakhs at Gandhi Maidan. “Hypocrisy ki bhi koi had hoti hai (There is a limit to hypocrisy),” Modi said after the multitude settled down. He referred to Nitish as “friend” 10 times in his 55-minute speech.
Asked to reply to Modi’s barbs, Nitish smiled and said, “I have replies to all the barbs, I shall give it at an appropriate time. Today is a most sad day because of the blasts. I’ll come out with the replies later.”
He, however, clarified he had nothing against offensives from political rivals. He said: “I too will get a chance. This is how political parties function in a democracy. Attack and counter-attack through words are healthy. But what happened today is not in conformity with what we stand for.”
Amazingly, despite six bombs going off at the ground, lakhs of people kept their cool. “Though low intensity, the blasts could have triggered a stampede killing hundreds. Credit goes to the people who did not lose their nerve,” remarked a security personnel.
Credit goes also to the BJP leaders, who made no mention of the blasts in their speeches and showed no sign of panic. In fact, when one bomb went off, BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain said: “The wheel of a vehicle must have burst. There is nothing to worry.” He lied, but it helped save the situation, a BJP worker said.
A deafening blast could be heard from the ground’s south-eastern end just as Modi reached the dais with Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitely. But, instead of panicking, a BJP cadre said: “Some people have burst crackers to greet Modiji. After all Diwali is round the corner.” Those in the press gallery were convinced. It is equally possible the blasts were beyond the crowds’ comprehension, as they had never seen anything like it before.
Modi made a fervent appeal for peace. “Poor Hindus and poor Muslims should fight poverty together. They will not get anything by fighting each other,” he signed off.