Days after 'no family' jibe, Modi tears into Lalu at Bihar rally

BJP supporters during the inauguration and foundation stone laying ceremony of various development projects, at Bettiah in West Champaran district.
BJP supporters during the inauguration and foundation stone laying ceremony of various development projects, at Bettiah in West Champaran district.

Bettiah (Bihar) | Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday tore into RJD president Lalu Prasad, who had recently hurled a barb at him claiming that his dislike for "dynastic politics" stemmed from his having "no family" of his own.

Addressing a rally in Bettiah, the headquarters of West Champaran district, Modi referred to Prasad and his family as "the biggest offenders (sabse bade gunahgar)" of Bihar. He accused them of bringing "jungle raj" during their decade-and-a-half-long rule in the state.

The PM, who was on his second visit to the state in less than a week, alleged that the RJD and its allies Congress and other constituents of the INDIA bloc were "heaping insults on Lord Ram" and had forced the deity "to live in tents" and paved "hurdles in the way of construction of a temple at Ayodhya".

"Since Independence, migration to other places in search of livelihood has been a major challenge before Bihar. The problem peaked when 'jungle raj' came," said Modi, alluding to the rise to power of Prasad in the 1990s.

Prasad, who started off as a Janata Dal leader, floated a new outfit in 1997 and later passed on the mantle to wife Rabri Devi who succeeded him as chief minister till 2005.

"An entire generation was deprived of future prospects during the jungle raj. Only one family prospered", said Modi and indirectly referred to the land-for-jobs scam, pertaining to Prasad's tenure as the railway minister in the Manmohan Singh government.

"Can Bihar forgive its biggest offenders, who grabbed land of people in exchange for jobs", asked the prime minister, referring to the scam in which Prasad's wife and son Tejashwi Yadav, besides daughter Misa Bharti have been named as accused.

"It was the NDA that rescued Bihar from jungle raj. The state is now experiencing growth propelled by a double engine", said Modi, referring to the formation of government by JD(U) president Nitish Kumar, a BJP ally, after the RJD was ousted from power in the state.

Mocking the INDIA bloc, Modi said, "The biggest issue for them seems to be that I have no family of my own. These are corrupt dynasts who want to save themselves from punishment for their wrongdoings. They want the license to indulge in loot".

"Had Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi), Babasaheb Ambedkar, Ram Manohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narayan and Karpoori Thakur been alive today, these corrupt dynasts would have targeted them as well, since none of them promoted their own families", added Modi.

The prime minister, who became a full-time RSS pracharak at a young age, attempted to strike an emotional chord, saying "when a young man from Bihar moves to a far-off land in search of greener pastures, he makes it sure to return home on Chhath. But I had no such luxury. I began viewing the entire nation as my own family".

"This is the reason why the entire nation is today calling itself Modi ka parivaar", said the PM, in an apparent reference to the social media campaign launched by leaders and supporters of the BJP, who have added the suffix to their names.

Speaking days before the schedule for Lok Sabha polls was likely to be announced, Modi reiterated his pitch for "400 plus seats for NDA", stressing that it was needed for "Viksit Bharat and Viksit Bihar".

The prime minister, who spoke for nearly 30 minutes, displayed his penchant for striking a chord with the local populace, whom he greeted in Bhojpuri, breaking into the local dialect a few more times during the speech.

He began his address with a reference to the "Satyagraha" that took place in West Champaran during the British rule, when the movement in support of indigo planters "transformed Mohandas into the Mahatma".

He also touched upon the area's historical association with Ramayana characters like sage Valmiki, who penned the original Sanskrit version and at whose "ashram" Lord Ram's twin sons Luv and Kush were born to Goddess Sita who took shelter there upon being exiled from Ayodhya.

Modi also said "the people of Champaran and elsewhere are taking note that RJD, Congress and INDI alliance are heaping insults on Lord Ram. It is because of them that Lord Ram had been forced to live in tents for years. They had tried to thwart construction of the temple at Ayodhya. But now the nation has awakened and asserting its pride in its cultural heritage".

The remarks were made against the backdrop of former Union minister A Raja, whose DMK is an INDIA constituent, making controversial remarks about Lord Ram.

These comments have garnered criticism from several allies.

The temple at Ayodhya was constructed following a Supreme Court judgment on the title suit about the disputed site where the Babri mosque stood, until it was razed by a mob in 1992.

Until the "Pran Pratishtha" (consecration) ceremony presided over by the prime minister in January, idols of deities were kept in a tent close to the site.

Those present at the rally, where the PM also launched projects worth Rs 12,800 crore, included Bihar Governor Rajendra Arlekar and Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai, besides a number of BJP MPs and ministers in the state cabinet.

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