NEW DELHI -- As the battle for Bihar intensifies, so does the war of words between Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party's election campaign in the state.
On Tuesday morning, Kumar shot off a letter to Modi in which he asked the prime minister to take back his remark about the chief minister's "DNA."
During BJP's maiden rally in Bihar, last month, Modi made jibes about Kumar's "DNA," while criticising the Janata Dal (United) leader of having an arrogant attitude towards other politicians.
"Your words have been taken as an insult by a large section of the people of the state and beyond," Kumar said in the letter, which was made public on Twitter. "Most of us also feel that coming from you, the comment is rather unbecoming of the office you hold."
"But, this is not the first time that we have faced this. Earlier as well, your colleague and BJP leader, Mr. Nitin Gadkari had said that 'casteism is in the DNA of Bihar.'"
Sharing my Open Letter to @NarendraModi about his comment on my DNAAugust 5, 2015
In his campaign speech, last month, Modi recalled how Kumar cancelled a dinner with BJP leaders after the party published ads which showed them holding hands in 2010, and then he talked about former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi's explusion from the JD(U) in February.
"I didn't say anything but I was very hurt. But when Jitan Ram Manjhi was persecuted, then I became restless. He snatched the plate from the son of a poor tea seller. But when he took away everything from a mahadalit, then I thought something is wrong with his DNA," he said.
HuffPost India reported earlier that raising the "DNA" issue would be Kumar's next strategy to hit back at Modi. ""It shows contempt for Bihar," he said. "He is the son of an OBC, he is the son of a freedom fighter," JD(U) spokesperson Pavan Varma said after Modi's speech.
Read Kumar's full letter.
"Few days back, while addressing a public rally in Bihar, a comment was made by you about my DNA. The issue has been troubling many of us since then. Now, as you are scheduled to visit the state again, I am writing to you on behalf of those who have felt hurt by your statement. Your words have been taken as an insult by a large section of the people of the state and beyond. Most of us also feel that coming from you, the comment is rather unbecoming of the office you hold.
But, this is not the first time that we have faced this. Earlier as well, your colleague and BJP leader, Mr. Nitin Gadkari had said that “casteism is in the DNA of Bihar”. Interestingly, these are the same people who reposed their faith in you and contributed towards electing you to the highest office of the country with an overwhelming majority. Ours is the same state that has been the cradle of civilization and has given birth to some of the greatest icons in history. Needless to say, when such statements are made, it weakens the collective faith of people in your leadership.
I am a son of Bihar. My DNA is the similar as that of the people of Bihar. Modiji, as you know, my father was a freedom fighter and my mother an ordinary housewife. I grew up in a humble household in rural Bihar. In my 40 years of public life, I have tried to work for the betterment of people following the ideals of Gandhi, Lohia and JP. Most of us feel that these statements, beyond questioning my own descent, have disrespected the lineage of our people and have denigrated the great legacy of the state. This also gives credence to the feeling that perhaps you and your party hold a prejudice against the people of Bihar. I wonder how come the gravity of such statements repeatedly misses your alert conscience.
Therefore, through this letter, I take the liberty to urge you to please consider taking back these words. I have no doubt that this gesture of yours would go a long way in assuaging the sentiments of the people and would further enhance the respect people have for you."