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Jab at ‘messiah’ Modi & ‘nationalist’ Lalu

(From top) Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi

New Delhi, Dec. 23: Nitish Kumar today insinuated that Lalu Prasad was behaving as if he’d been “behind bars for the freedom struggle” and Narendra Modi as if he held a “magic wand to solve all problems”.

“Bihar has some special characters. One of them is celebrating after getting out of jail as if he was behind bars for a great national cause like the freedom struggle,” the Bihar chief minister told a conference of industry body Assocham.

Nitish did not name the RJD chief but left little doubt who the target was as he addressed the meet, titled “Bihar Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow — Governance at the grassroots: a model for India”, meant to showcase his state to investors.

The comments came against the backdrop of a perception that the Congress, which was once weighing Nitish’s Janata Dal (United) as a potential partner, was now warming up to Lalu Prasad’s RJD and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party.

Nitish then took a dig at Modi, a leader toasted by chambers for industrial initiatives in Gujarat. “Some others are busy looking towards west (Gujarat) for the great messiah to rise without realising that the sun sets in that direction, never comes up from there.”

Nitish, who broke his alliance with the BJP over Modi in June, was scathing in his denunciation of the party’s prime ministerial candidate. “Somebody is busy selling dreams to people as if he has a magic wand that will solve all the problems in this country. But people understand that the country can grow only if all its states grow and develop equally.”

Nitish did not mince words in expressing displeasure with the Congress, saying the party had earlier shown a “positive attitude towards declaring Bihar a special state” but had now “put the issue on the backburner” because of elections.

“Their (the UPA’s) priorities have changed now. It looked for a while that the Centre was serious about granting us the special status and they also took some initiatives. But now it’s obvious that they have developed cold feet. The issue has been pushed into cold storage as elections are round the corner,” the Bihar chief minister told the conference.

But he warned he would keep raising the demand during the campaign. “We are not going to change our priority. We will go to the public with the issue during upcoming elections and tell them how we are being denied a genuine right.”

The chief minister extended an “open invitation” to industrialists to invest in his state, saying “they will only need to invest in their units and projects rather than pay bribes in government offices” or meet extortion demands of criminals. The allusion was to alleged lawlessness during the RJD’s 15-year rule till 2005.

Organiser Assocham hailed Bihar’s progress in Nitish’s eight years, saying in a report released on the occasion that his government had scripted a “turnaround story”.

“During the 11th Plan (2007 to 2012), Bihar recorded one of the highest average growth rates among all states, of 11.95 per cent, followed by 14.48 per cent in 2012-13,” the report said.