Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar took a dig at the BJP on Saturday, saying that there were only two leaders in the party today: the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. Speaking at the Ekjutaa (show of unity) rally in Purnia, organised by the seven parties of the ruling alliance in the States Bihar, Mr. Kumar also emphasised the need for Opposition unity to fight the BJP in the next year’s general election.
Earlier in the day, Home Minister Amit Shah mocked the Bihar Chief Minister at another rally in the State, claiming that he dreamt about becoming the Prime Minister every three years. “But BJP has now shut all its doors for Nitish Kumar,” said Mr. Shah, addressing a rally at Lauria in Valmikinagar of the West Champaran district.
Just two hours later, Mr. Kumar hit back at the Purnia rally. “In the BJP, there are only two leaders today: the Prime Minister and the Home Minister. They only talk without doing any work. Everything has been captured in the country today, from institutions to media,” he claimed.
‘Opposition must unite’
Mr. Kumar said that he had no personal desires, but he only aspired for Opposition unity. “If we are united in the 2024 Lok Sabha poll, they [BJP] will get nothing and will be removed from the country. They will not get even 100 seats,” he said. “We’re waiting for the Congress party to take the initiative and discuss things,” said the Chief Minister.
“And once they [BJP] are removed, everything will be exposed and the media too will tell what was happening,” he said, appealing for the Opposition to be united across the country. “So we all should unite as soon as possible. If not, then who will get the benefit?” asked Mr. Kumar at Purnia’s Rangbhoomi grounds. Interestingly enough, Mr. Shah had also addressed a rally at this location last September.
After Mr. Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) had severed its previous alliance with the BJP, this is the first time that the ruling mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) had organised a joint rally to blow the bugle for the upcoming 2024 Parliamentary elections. The leaders of all seven alliance partners in the State government were present, and addressed the rally with a call for Opposition unity to oust the BJP from the Centre next year.
‘BJP is RSS’ mask’
Ailing Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav addressed the rally virtually from Delhi. “BJP is not a party but a mask of RSS. And what the RSS wants, Prime Minister Narendra Modi does. They [BJP] do not respect anyone but insults everyone, and ignores the Constitution. The country today is on the brink of disintegration,” said Mr. Yadav, painting a gloomy picture.
His son and political heir, Tejashwi Yadav, who is also the Deputy Chief Minister, slammed the BJP amidst occasional applause from an audience of mostly young people. “There is no intention of anyone in the alliance to become CM or PM, but only to remove the BJP from power in the 2024 parliamentary poll,” said the younger Mr. Yadav, adding that there were “no leaders in BJP, but all are dealers”, he added, shouting slogans to the audience: “ BJP bhagao, desh bachao; Ek Bihari, sab par bhari (Remove BJP, save the country; one Bihari weighs heavy on everyone)”.
Addressing the rally, State Congress president Akhilesh Prasad Singh urged the CM to invite all grand alliance parties in order to “talk and to discuss who would contest from where”. The Communist Party of India (Marxists-Leninist) leader Dipankar Bhattacharya slammed the “Gujarat model” of development, saying, “Gujarat model has been reduced to Jhoot (lies), loot (plunder), Adani etc. We talk of Bihar model against the Gujarat model.”
HIgh stakes region
Others on the stage at the rally included former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi of the Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), JD(U) president Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh and State party chief Umesh Kushwaha, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and Rajya Sabha member Manoj Jha, CPM leader Ajay Kumar and CPI leader Om Prakash Narayan.
Purnia lies in the Seemanchal area of north-east Bihar, which holds political and electoral significance for both the BJP-led NDA and the mahagathbandhan. The four districts of the Seemanchal area — Kishanganj, Purnia, Katihar and Araria — have a significant population of Muslims, extremely Backward Classes and Yadavs.
In the 243-seat State Assembly, Seemanchal accounts for 24 seats, of which the BJP currently holds eight, followed by five seats each with the Congress and RJD. The JD(U) holds four seats, while the CPI(ML) and AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) have one seat each. In the last Assembly poll in 2020, the Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM had won five seats in the Seemanchal area but later, four of its MLAs had joined the RJD. Out of the four Parliamentary seats in Seemanchal, the BJP holds the Araria seat and the Congress holds Kishanganj, with the JD(U) representing both Purnia and Katihar.