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Guns loaded for pride offensive

Patna, Nov. 6: Nitish Kumar has touched off a new political discourse by harping on “Bihari pride” to counter the threat of Narendra Modi.

Last Saturday, as Narendra Modi, the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister, was busy meeting the relatives of those killed in the serial blasts of October 27, the chief minister sought to take the battle to his rival camp by reasserting the importance of being a Bihari. “Bihar can only be developed by Biharis. Not outsiders,” Nitish remarked.

Since then, he has repeated it on two other occasions, leaving his former ally mystified. “What does the chief minister mean to say? Does he intend to oust Sharad Yadav (who hails from Madhya Pradesh) as JD(U)’s national president? If he is so keen on Biharis, why did he get K.C. Tyagi elected from Bihar to the Rajya Sabha?” wondered BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.

Sushil Modi scoffed at his former boss’s assertion and pointed out that he, Nand Kishore Yadav, Prem Kumar, Ashwani Choubey and C.P. Thakur were all Biharis who worked for the state. “After the massive success of Hunkar Rally, a desperate Nitish Kumar is trying to raise the issue of Bihari versus non-Bihari,” Sushil Modi asserted.

Nitish’s harping on Bihari pride is being seen in the context of Narendra Modi’s promise to grant Bihar a special package if he becomes Prime Minister. The BJP pointed out that even Nitish has been running after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister P. Chidambaram for special status. “Development of the state cannot take place without the help of the Centre and the Centre will be dominated by ‘outsiders’,” said a BJP leader.

The JD(U) was quick to jump to their leader’s defence.

“Nitish Kumar has said nothing wrong when maintaining that only Biharis can help Bihar. But my party also focuses on national issues. We had no problem with local BJP leaders but the alliance was called off because we felt Narendra Modi is dangerous for the nation as Prime Minister,” said JD(U) MP Shivanand Tiwari.

Nitish has tried to insert an element of Bihari sub-nationalism in the caste-ridden society by holding mega shows on March 22 on the occasion of Bihar Diwas from 2010, both at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan and in the district headquarters. “But despite holding these mega shows, caste holds sway and that is why the chief minister, while speaking against caste, attends caste-based events. On Wednesday, he was attending a Chitragupta Puja event which is largely associated with the Kayasthas, who have a substantial say in the Patna seats,” pointed out a JD(U) leader, who refused to be named.

He stressed that social combinations, and not Bihari pride, would decide the political future of Bihar. Despite the hype over “Bihari pride”, the leader pointed out, all parties still decide candidates on the basis of caste equations in their constituencies.

Electorally, Bihar has been liberal in accepting politicians from outside the state right from 1952. Acharya JB Kripalani, Madhu Limaye, George Fernandes, Lakhan Lal Kapur, Sharad Yadav, among others, had made Bihar their political homes. “In fact George Fernandes did a lot to develop the constituencies he represented. In Muzaffarpur, the Kanti Thermal Plant was his gift. In Nalanda, the ordinance factory and training centre for para-military forces were established at his initiative,” said another JD(U) leader, while stressing that it was ironical that Nitish, who had raised strong objections at the manhandling of Biharis in Maharashtra, should himself raise the Bihari and non-Bihari agenda.