An insult for an insult, an argument for an argument and a fact to counter another fact; for each of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pronouncements at a rally in Bihar on Tuesday, the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had an equally strong counter.
To the PM’s queries in his rally about the quantum of assistance the people of Bihar expected, the Chief Minister quipped, “Is this an auction? Are you bidding for Bihar?”
About the PM’s most important announcement about the ₹1.25 lakh crore special package, the Chief Minister had a question – “What is the timeline and the deadline for this package?”
While hinting that it could take years before the assistance actually materialises, Nitish Kumar also pointed out that a little over ₹50,000 crore is already part of planned expenditure to develop national highways in the state.
The CM also pointed out that the power plant at Buxar and capacity-building at the oil refinery at Barauni, both of which are part of the PM’s package, had already been announced. In fact, the Buxar project was cleared by the previous UPA government.‘Whither special status?’
“What is this? kamal hai (It is astonishing). You pick up anything from anywhere and include it in the special package?” asked Nitish Kumar. The CM also asserted that as opposed to giving special status to Bihar, which would have resulted in the kind of tax exemptions and other assistance to facilitate investments in the state, the PM is merely repackaging old schemes to create an impression that a large sum of money is being given to a poll-bound state through a special package.
The razzle-dazzle in the PM’s rally and the announcement of the special package followed his typical pow wow with the crowd – “₹50,000 crore?” the PM asked as the crowd roared. “₹60,000?” “₹70,000? ₹75,000? ₹80,000?” “Today, I promise ₹1.25 lakh crore.”
The Chief Minister was not amused. “What was this? Was there an auction? Were you bidding for Bihar?” Nitish Kumar asked at a press conference that he has taken to holding each time the PM addresses a public rally in the poll-bound state.
In fact, the PM’s third public rally in Bihar showed that from the Nitish Kumar-led Janata alliance, the BJP has a fight on its hands till the last vote is counted. Accordingly, like the last time, Nitish Kumar followed the PM’s mega rally with a series of tweets.
“Promises, big bang announcements and packaging. Little action and no delivery on ground,” tweeted the Bihar CM. He simultaneously released a series of PM’s earlier pronouncements which, according to him, have not been followed by action on the ground.
In fact, the Bihar CM has announced a digital campaign entitled #BolneMeinKyaJataHai (what does it cost to say anything?).
The campaign includes Modi’s election promises with respect to black money, decriminalisation of politics, providing employment to “crores of youth” and “show Pakistan and China that I have 56-inch chest”. Each of these pronouncements is illustrated with a caricature of the PM on Nitish Kumar’s twitter handle. Kumar also re-tweeted imaged of the PM taking selfies and constantly referred to him as “ Jumla Babu (a term implying that the PM is boastful).”
“Call me arrogant and then say I was begging for special assistance. I don’t mind begging if it is for the welfare of my people, but how can I beg and be arrogant at the same time?”.