Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit the election campaign trail in Bihar on Friday and appealed to people not to forget the bravery of Bihar Regiment jawans who gallantly fought Chinese troops at Galwan valley in Ladakh. He reminded voters about the indomitable courage shown by our jawans from Bihar who fought the enemy with bare hands, without weapons, and gave the supreme sacrifice in the service of the nation.
Addressing three election rallies in Gaya, Bhagalpur and Sasaram, Modi said: “The brave sons of Bihar attained martyrdom to protect the honour of our tricolour in Galwan valley. I bow my head and pay homage to these brave sons.” The Prime Minister then hit out at the opposition, particularly the Congress, for promising to restore Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. He said, “They are saying they will restore Article 370 if they came to power. Look at their audacity. And they still dare to seek votes in Bihar. Is this not an insult to the sentiments of people in Bihar who send their sons and daughter to protect our borders?”
Modi also spoke about corruption and dynastic politics, indirectly referring to Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the ‘jungle raj’ during his party’s rule in Bihar for 15 years. He asked voters not to be swayed by emotions and vote for development and the rule of law. In his rally in Gaya, Modi pointedly referred to the Mahagathbandhan and said that these parties have joined hands with Naxalites. The RJD-led Mahagathbandhan has given 29 seats to Left parties in Bihar, out of which 19 seats have been given to CPI(ML), a pro-Maoist party.
Modi’s three rallies on Friday will definitely have an impact on voters’ preferences in at least 40 assembly constituencies. For the last several days, I have been watching reactions of common people in Bihar and also the promises being made by Lalu’s son Tejashwi Yadav. The common voter is aware that there was ‘jungle raj’ during RJD regime, he is also aware that there was widespread corruption and kidnappings in the state. The same voters also say that they have no issues with Narendra Modi, but most of them are unhappy with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is fast becoming a liability for NDA.
I watched Tejashwi Yadav telling voters that his father Lalu will be out on bail on November 9, a day before counting of votes will take place. He has also told his supporters that Nitish Kumar will lose the next day. This could be part of his strategy to boost the morale of his followers, but he is unable to remove the ‘jungle raaj’ perception about RJD from the minds of common people.
I remember how during RJD regime in Bihar, kidnapping became a thriving industry. If people went to showrooms to buy cars, or even motorbikes or scooters, their children were abducted by criminals in order to collect ransom. Road and building contractors refused to work because they had to pay ‘rangdaari’ tax to criminals, which was more compared to the taxes that they paid to the government. It was because of this perception that Prime Minister Modi on Friday pressed the nerves of RJD leaders where it hurt the most. Tejashwi will now have to promise voters that the days of ‘jungle raaj’ will not return.
On the other side, it is a fact that during Nitish Kumar’s regime, roads, schools, colleges and hospitals were built and power supply position has improved in Bihar. The scale of corruption during his rule is less compared to massive corruption during RJD regime. Criminals have been kept on a tight leash. But the common man is unhappy with the manner in which the Covid pandemic and this year’s floods were handled in Bihar. Nitish Kumar barely moved out from his official residence during these two critical periods. He should have been out serving the people instead of closeting himself inside his residence.
I have spoken to several senior BJP leaders. The state BJP leaders admit in private that the common people is unhappy with Nitish Kumar. They are now resting their hopes on Prime Minister Modi, who has an impeccable and incorruptible image. Modi cautioned voters about the return of ‘jungle raaj’ if they were swayed by anti-incumbency. He did not forget to remind the people of the thriving kidnapping industry that was going on in Bihar during RJD rule. Modi also pointed out the achievements of Nitish Kumar’s government in recent years. It is now for the voters of Bihar to take a final call.
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