File image: Union Home Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah
Setting the tone for Bihar assembly polls, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the state moved from "jungle raj to janta raj" during the NDA rule and expressed confidence that the alliance will get a two-third majority in the state elections under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's leadership.
Shah's statement at a first of its kind ‘virtual rally', in which he addressed the people of the state from the national capital using internet and broadcast mediums, will scotch whatever speculation there might have been over Kumar's stewardship as a section of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance leaders had been questioning his leadership.
“Elections are around the corner in Bihar. I am confident that the NDA will form the government under Nitish Kumar's leadership with a two-third majority,” the senior BJP leader said in the address.
With opposition parties attacking the BJP for holding the rally at a time when coronavirus infection numbers continue to surge, Shah took pains to delink the exercise with Bihar poll campaign, saying it is one of the 75 virtual public meetings that the party has organised for ‘Jan Samvad' (public dialogue) after the completion of the first year of the Modi government's second term.
It is aimed at connecting people with the fight against the coronavirus and with the government's ‘Aatmnirbhar Bharat' (self-reliant India) campaign as the BJP believes in public dialogue, he said.
His speech was interspersed with digs at opposition leaders, including RJD's Tejashwi Yadav over his absence from Bihar after the COVID-19 outbreak and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, as he highlighted the Modi government's achievements and strongly defended its handling of the migrants issue.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked chief ministers to cater to the needs of migrant workers and also released Rs 11,000 crore for this, he said, adding that the railways has transported over 1.25 crore people to their homes safely after health infrastructure was ramped up to take care of them in their respective states.
With Bihar home to millions of migrant workers and their concern likely to be a key poll issue in the state polls, which are due in October-November, Shah heaped praise on their contribution to the nation's development and said their hard work is imprinted everywhere.
Some people are doing politics over the issue, Shah said and acknowledged the hardship the migrants have gone through, before taking an apparent swipe at Yadav without naming him. Shah asked if he was in Bihar or “enjoying himself” in Delhi during that period.
Taking potshots at the RJD which protested against his virtual rally by beating utensils, Shah asked if anyone had stopped them from holding a virtual rally and added its leader chose to enjoy himself in Delhi.
Praising Kumar and his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi, who is from the BJP, he said Bihar's growth rate had reached 11.3 per cent under the NDA rule while it was just 3.9 per cent when former chief minister Lalu Prasad's RJD was in power.
“Bihar has travelled from 'lalten raj' to 'LED raj', from loot and order to law and order, from 'bahubal' (muscle power) to power of development and from 'jungle raj to janata raj',” he said.
Listing out several measures, including cash transfer, taken by the Bihar government, Shah said in a lighter vein that while Kumar and Modi have done a lot of work quietly, they lack in doing its publicity.
The Rs 1.25 lakh crore package that Modi had announced for Bihar in 2015 has been executed on ground, he said, giving details of works in different sectors, like highways and agriculture.
Targeting Rahul Gandhi, who has frequently question the efficacy of Modi government's measures, including the lockdown, Shah said somebody sitting here interviews people in the US while the prime minister united the entire country in the fight against the coronavirus.
Gandhi has been speaking to well-known figures from different fields on issues related to the coronavirus crisis.
The former BJP president said opposition leaders dismissed as “political propaganda” Modi's efforts, be it his call for ‘janata curfew' or appeal to citizens to beat utensils or light lamps during the COVID-19 crisis to underscore the national resolve and to unite the country , but the nation stood with him and followed him.
Modi has become the only prime minister after Lal Bahadur Shastri to draw such support from the masses to his appeals, Shah said.
With Gandhi often accusing the government of not doing much for farmers, Shah hit back, saying some NGO has told the Congress leader that speaking loudly will get him more votes.
“Rahul Gandhi claims that the UPA government in 10 years waived loans of Rs 60,000 crore of over three crore farmers. Modi has ensured that over Rs 72,000 crore is given to 9.5 crore farmers every year,” he said.
Highlighting a number of pro-people measures like free cooking gas and housing schemes of the Modi government, he said the biggest work that the prime minister has done is to enhance India's prestige in the world "to the skies". He asserted that Modi has secured the country's borders.
"There used to be a time when anybody would infiltrate, make light of our borders and behead our soldiers, and nothing happened in Delhi durbar," he said, adding that the Modi government launched surgical and air strikes after terror attacks in Uri and Pulwama as punitive measures.
Shah's comments came at a time when Indian and Chinese armies are involved in a standoff in Ladakh, with military and diplomatic channels being used to defuse the situation. He, however, made no mention of the issue. The Modi government also walked out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as it would have destroyed India's small farmers, traders and fishermen among others, he said.
Shah said issues which none dared to touch in 70 years were resolved in the first year of the Modi government's second term and referred to the scrapping of Article 370 provisions and the law against triple talaq. While previous governments worked to ensure that that Ayodhya issue remained unresolved, the government's handling of the matter has paved the way for the construction of Ram temple following a Supreme Court judgment, he said.
Citing various steps for the welfare of the poor and the needy taken by the Modi government amidst the fight against the pandemic, Shah asked the opposition what it did in the states where it is in power besides doing politics.
The BJP claimed that more than 14 lakh internet users joined the first of its kind digital political rally.
The Congress criticised Shah for holding a rally "with politics in mind at a time when people of Bihar were dying due to coronavirus and many were stranded in various parts of the country".