Addressing his first rally in Bihar after the election dates were announced last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday laid out the contours of the BJP’s blueprint with the slogan “Vikasvad Zindabad”, targeting the youth and the poor with the promise of development.
Focussing mostly on the “progress of Bihar”, Modi said that he would create opportunities for youth in their backyard so that they do not have to leave their aged parents behind in search of jobs.
“The country’s progress is directly linked to Bihar’s progress,” the Prime Minister said in Banka.
However, contrary to expectations, Modi did not react to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks on the caste-based reservation system or RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s response that this election had become a “backward versus forward” fight.
In fact, Modi did not name Lalu Prasad or JD-U leader and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar even once during his 37-minute speech.
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Modi had last addressed a rally in the state on September 1 at Bhagalpur and this time, despite an initial technical glitch with the mike, he started by invoking the birth anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri before taking on the JD-U government.
“Bihar has seen ahankarvad (politics of arrogance) and fascism, people should now vote for vikasvad, which alone is the theme of this election. Vikasvad Zindabad. The solution to all our problems is development. I want to give employment to youth in their state so that they can live with their aged parents. Do not trust the bad as it produces only bad,” said the PM.
Referring indirectly to Nitish’s allegations of the BJP being a party of the rich, Modi listed the Centre’s pro-poor schemes.
“We started the Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao scheme. Is it not for the daughters of the poor? Why did anyone not think of it before? I have assured 24-hour power supply to every household in Bihar. Is it not for the poor? The rich get electricity, anyway. We have been talking of giving pucca houses for everyone by 2022, on the completion of the 75th year of our Independence. Is it not for the poor?” Modi said.
Modi said the Centre had no faith that the Bihar Chief Minister would utilise its special package for the state, and referred to the Kosi floods of 2008.
“Who knows whether the gentleman who returned the Kosi flood relief cheque given by the Gujarat government will refuse to accept the special package of Rs 1.25 lakh crore. The package was the right of the people of Bihar but I wonder why past governments could not give it and I got the honour of doing it,” said Modi.
The Prime Minister also highlighted how Mudra banks had been extending loans to vegetables-sellers and other small-income traders to break the monopoly of money-lenders.
Elaborating on how a change of government can make a difference, the PM said he would not compare Bihar to states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Goa and Maharashtra but to BJP-ruled Jharkhand. “The World Bank conducted a survey on industry-friendly states last year and had found Bihar at 27th position and Jharkhand on 29. The World Bank conducted a fresh survey and found that while Bihar remained at 29, Jharkhand had jumped to the third position,” said Modi.
He added that while there were reports of 300 deaths in Bihar caused by the parasitic disease Kala Azar, Jharkhand reported only 25 casualties.
BJP legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi, meanwhile, promised that if the NDA came to power, it would distribute laptops to 50,000 students who did well in Class 10 and Plus-2 and Scootys with fuel expenses to 5,000 girl students.
The enthusiastic response to the Banka rally carries special significance for the BJP which had lost the parliamentary seat to RJD in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.