Shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a central package of Rs. 1.25 lakh crore for the development of Bihar, the state Chief Minister Nitish Kumar hit back at him questioning his approach.
'Was PM Bidding for Bihar?" he asked.
Today, Prime Minister Modi announced a development package of Rs 1.25 lakh crore for the state, among the most backward in India. He worked the crowd to loud cheers as he went about building up the figure. "Should I sanction Rs 50,000 crores? Should I sanction Rs 60,000 crores? Should I sanction Rs 80,000 crores?"
He was speaking at a public gathering after laying the foundation stone for new national highway projects in Arrah. Bihar goes to the polls in October-November.
"He is the Prime Minister of the country. He talks of cooperative federalism. But works for something else. He humiliates the state government. Tries to prove them incompetent. But his saying doesn't change anything," Kumar said.
Throwing an open challenge to PM Modi, the chief minister said, "I will stay here. Ek Bihari sab pe bhari (One Bihari is enough for everyone)."
Modi, who began his speech in the local dialect of Bhojpuri, promised that he would ensure that the funds are put to their intended use in Bihar, which ranks among the most corrupt states in India.
Meanwhile, the chief minister was not left impressed. "We don't know when we will get all the money anyway," Kumar said dismissively. He has emphasised that "special assistance is our right and not a favor."
Modi also grabbed the opportunity to show that previous packages were paltry in comparison with his announcement. "The previous government hurt the pride of Bihar and provided only Rs. 12,000 crore, out of which Rs.1,000 crore was left from funds allocated during Atalji's time as PM," he said, adding that the earlier allocation was akin to offering a chocolate or biscuit to placate a kid.
Bihar's chief minister and rival Nitish Kumar was not spared, as has been the case in Modi's recent speeches in the state. "I am surprised that on the one hand, he says Bihar is not BIMARU, and on the other, he keeps asking for something or the other. If somebody is healthy, will he go to a doctor?"
Kumar retaliated by saying that demanding special category status, which entitles more funds, is warranted.
While I will wait to hear details of the so called package announced by Modiji, I emphasize, special assistance is OUR RIGHT & not a favor— Nitish Kumar (@NitishKumar) August 18, 2015
He also tweeted in Hindi that he will not hesitate to ask for more funds for the welfare of the state.
बिहार और बिहार की जनता के लिए अगर मुझे बार बार याचक के तौर पे किसी के दरवाज़े जाना पड़े तो इसमें मुझे कोई संकोच नहीं है (2/2)— Nitish Kumar (@NitishKumar) August 18, 2015
In his rebuttal of PM Modi's many charges against him in his two speeches in Bihar today, Nitish Kumar also noted, "He said I go as a beggar to Delhi. How can I be both a beggar and arrogant?"
The charge of arrogance was levelled at Mr Kumar by PM Modi at an election rally in the afternoon, when he recalled how the chief minister had rejected aid for floods from Gujarat of which he was then chief minister.
In his previous speech, Modi had promised a development aid of "more than Rs 50,000 crore." This time, he mentioned that development was essential for farmers in Bihar, a largely agrarian state. Modi has reached out to farmers through speeches and also his weekly 'Mann Ki Baat' radio talk to dispel notions that the Land Bill has provisions contrary to farmers' interests.
(With agency inputs)