|Narendra Modi gestures during the rally in Purnea on Monday. (PTI)
Purnea, March 10: Narendra Modi today targeted Nitish Kumar’s secular credentials in one of Bihar’s Muslim pockets and alleged that the Janata Dal (United) chief minister had dumped the BJP out of “greed” for the Prime Minister’s post.
Citing Nitish’s recent remark that he was “better qualified” for the Prime Minister’s job than those “roaming around”, Modi, without naming his Bihar counterpart, said: “Now it is crystal clear to us why he dumped the BJP.”
He added: “Overpowered by the dream to become Prime Minister, he broke the alliance and joined the toli (group) of leaders (third front) harbouring the greed to become Prime Minister.”
The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate seemed to have done his homework on the region where he addressed his third “hunkar” rally — the other two had been held in Patna and Muzaffarpur, on October 27 and March 3.
He seemed aware that Purnea, a part of the Seemanchal region that borders Nepal and Bengal, had the highest concentration of Muslims in the state and had been devastated in the 2008 floods. The Gujarat chief minister tailored his speech accordingly.
Modi accused Nitish, without naming him, of constantly “bluffing” the Muslims under the garb of secularism. He cited how “arrogantly” the Bihar chief minister had returned the sum of Rs 5 crore that the Gujarat government had sent for the Kosi flood victims.
He contrasted all that with the “phenomenal” work done in Gujarat to lift the community’s living standards, presenting his pro-Muslim credentials with a flourish.
“What has this government done for the Muslims except for constantly fooling them and treating them as a vote bank in the name of secularism?” he demanded.
To support his claim, the BJP mascot reeled off statistics comparing Muslims’ relative conditions in Gujarat and Bihar.
“These people tirelessly accuse me of neglecting Muslims in Gujarat. But look at the statistics furnished by the Sachar Committee… Gujarat has 45 per cent Muslims living in urban areas against Bihar’s 24 per cent,” he said.
“Child mortality among Muslims is 71 per 1,000 in Bihar against 34 per 1,000 in Gujarat. Only two per cent of Muslim children are beneficiaries of the Integrated Child Development Scheme in Bihar against 32 per cent in Gujarat.”
However, Muslim presence was negligible among the 1.5 lakh-odd people at Modi’s rally at the Rangbhoomi Maidan. Groups of youths in the crowd kept breaking into applause and bouts of slogan-shouting.
The attendance vastly outdid the turnout at Nitish’s Sankalp Yatras in Bihar’s hinterland.
The BJP received a shot in the arm today with Koiri leader Vijay Kumar Kushwaha attending Modi’s rally. Two days ago, Kushwaha’s wife and former minister Renu had left the BJP to join Nitish.
Continuing to attack the Bihar chief minister, Modi said: “You should never pardon an arrogant leader who returned the relief fund contributed by Gujarat’s people to help out their flood-hit Bihar brethren.”
He promised that if a BJP-led government came to power at the Centre, it would grant special category status to Bihar besides a special package and regular attention to “everything needed to put Bihar on the fast track to development”.
Taking another swipe at Nitish, the BJP leader said: “I am afraid that these narrow-minded leaders might refuse to accept the welfare schemes on the ground that they had been given by Modi.”
A part of the crowd kept chanting: “Bahut ho gaya bhrashtachar, abki bar Modi sarkar (We have had enough of corruption; it’s now Modi’s turn to form the government).”
Modi also targeted Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and accused the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government of unchecked corruption and policy paralysis.
The BJP was able to put up a show of unity, with upper caste leaders C.P. Thakur, Giriraj Singh, Ashwini Choubey and Kiriti Azad, who had skipped Modi’s Muzaffarpur rally, turning up today.