Patna, March 30: Arch-rivals Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad have found a common target in Narendra Modi to woo minorities, scaling down the diatribe on each other midway through campaigning.
Sights set on Muslim votes, the BJP and its prime ministerial candidate Modi have become the core subjects of criticism for both the regional satraps — Nitish and Lalu. Scathing attacks on each other have of late diminished to fleeting references.
Calling Modi a fascist and a threat to the country at a public meeting in Nawada yesterday, Lalu said: “Muslims are not refugees. L.K. Advani is a refugee.”
His target remained Modi today in Motihari, as he said: “Narendra Modi apna paap dhone Kashi gaya hain, lekin wah wahan bhi nahi dhul payega (Narendra Modi has gone to Varanasi to wash his sins but he cannot get rid of them there also). ( )
There were no such barbs at Nitish, though. Lalu just said Nitish’s JD(U) was with the BJP for 17 years.
Nitish, too, has stepped up his attack on Modi over the past few days. “His (Modi’s) first enemy is me and the Muslims,” he said at a meeting in Gaya on Saturday. The same day he addressed meetings in Nawada, Gaya and Munger and alleged that Modi was “insulting Bihar”.
There was only passing references to his other political adversaries, including Lalu, Ram Vilas Paswan, and the Congress leaders.
“The Muslim votes will decide which party can take on the BJP. Attacking Modi more at this hour is aimed at sending the message that they are equipped to take on the BJP,” said a JD(U) leader, pointing out that both the JD(U) and the RJD needed the Muslim votes desperately.
The BJP has not missed the lack of fizz in the voices of Nitish and Lalu while attacking each other. “Both Lalu and Nitish have a secret understanding. That is why the JD(U) has fielded candidates with a view to damage the BJP,” said senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi.
The Muslims contribute about 17 per cent of the population and form the majority in Kishanganj district.
For 15 years, the MY (Muslim-Yadav) combination was the winning mantra for Lalu. From 2005 onwards, Nitish has been successful in making inroads into Lalu’s Muslim votes. But the threat to Lalu is greater this time because Nitish is going to the Lok Sabha polls after snapping the JD(U)’s 17-year ties with the BJP on the issue of Modi.
The Muslim community members appeared confused over Nitish and Lalu’s one-upmanship on nailing Modi but most of them declared that Lalu’s “secular credentials” were more reliable.
“The credibility and commitment of Lalu among the Muslims and his zeal to fight against communal forces has been tried and tested,” said Riyaz Ahmad, an intellectual of densely populated Chandwara in Muzaffarpur.
“The Muslims appreciate the development work done by Nitish,” said Shafi Ahmad (44), a social worker of Gaya. He said the possibility of the non-BJP candidates would matter irrespective of the party he or she belongs to, Ahmad added.