| BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at a rally in Purnea on Monday. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Purnea, March 10: Narendra Modi today questioned Nitish Kumar’s secularism and contribution to the Muslim community while charging him with breaking the 17-year friendship with the BJP to satisfy his “greed” to become Prime Minister.
Reacting on Nitish’s recent remarks that he was “better qualified” for the Prime Minister’s post than those “roaming around”, Modi said without naming anyone: “Now it is clear to us why he dumped the BJP. Overpowered by the dream to become Prime Minister, he broke the alliance and joined the toli (group) of leaders harbouring the greed to lead the country.”
The BJP got a shot in the arm with Vijay Kumar Kushwaha, a Koiri leader, joining the party in Modi’s presence on a day his wife and state industries minister Renu Kumari apparently tendered her resignation.
Renu, a former MP of Khagaria, is reported to be upset over the JD(U) offering the Khagaria seat to dissident RJD MLA Samrat Choudhary who recently let a split in the RJD legislators. Efforts were on by Nitish and his followers to persuade her to withdraw her resignation. Incidentally, she is the only woman minister in the Nitish government after Parveen Amanullah quit last month and joined the AAP. Renu made herself unavailable for comment.
Aware that Purnea — part of the Seemanchal, bordering Nepal, Bengal and Bangladesh in northeast Bihar — has the highest concentration of Muslims and was devastated in the 2008 floods, Modi had tailormade his speech accordingly. While on one hand, he launched a blistering attack on Nitish for constantly “bluffing” the Muslims under the camouflage of secularism against Gujarat government’s “phenomenal” work to uplift the living standard of the community, he also for the first time pointed out how “arrogantly” the Bihar chief minister had returned the relief fund worth Rs 5 crore sent by the Gujarat government to help the flood victims.
However, the presence of the Muslims was negligible at the Rangbhoomi Maidan here which otherwise was full with over 1.50 lakh people comprising enthusiastic youths intermittently breaking into clapping and shouting the slogans in Modi’s favour.
But Modi presented his pro-Muslim image with flamboyance. “These people tirelessly abuse me for neglecting Muslims in Gujarat. But look at the statistics furnished by the Sachar Committee. Gujarat has 45 per cent Muslims living in the urban areas against Bihar’s 24 per cent. Muslim child mortality rate is 71 per 1,000 in Bihar against 34 per 1,000 in Gujarat. Only 2 per cent of the Muslim children are the beneficiaries of the integrated child development scheme in Bihar against 32 per cent in Gujarat,” he said.
“You should never pardon an arrogant leader who returned the relief fund contributed by the Gujaratis to help out their flood-hit Bihar brethren in distress,” he said, promising: “If the BJP government comes to power at the Centre, we shall accord special category status, special package and special attention — everything required to make Bihar a developed state.”
At the same time, he said jokingly: “I am afraid these narrow-minded leaders might refuse to accept the welfare schemes because they had been offered by Modi.”