Launching a counter-offensive against the scathing remarks by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on him at an election rally Sunday, president of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Lalu Prasad accused him of lowering the dignity the PM’s post.
“Narendra Modi has given a new low to the standards of a Prime Minister. People are looking at him as a joke now,” Lalu, the political maverick, said in a tweet.
Modi had made a swipe at the RJD’s alliance with the Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) in the coming Bihar election.
He said: “In his [Lalu’s] earlier jungle raj [as chief minister) in Bihar, a new experience of jail has been added which threatens to make ‘jungle raj II’ all the more damaging.”
Modi was referring to the recent jail term served by Lalu in Ranchi in connection with a multi-crore fodder scandal. Lalu’s conviction disqualified him as a Lok Sabha (lower house) member from Saran constituency and also prohibited him from contesting elections for 11 years.
Lalu hit back in his tweet: “The Prime Minister should ask his friend Amit Shah [president of Modi’s saffron party, BJP] what else he has learnt in addition to falsehood … and dividing people from the jail.”
JD(U) leader and Bihar’s current chief minister Nitish Kumar said Modi was trying to hurt the “Bihari pride.”
“The Prime Minister first pointed fingers at Bihar’s DNA, now he called the state ‘sick’ (‘BIMARU’) ,” Kumar said.
“I had requested him to take back his words. But he did nothing of the sort… I think he has forgotten that Bihar is not called ‘BIMARU’ any more.”
He asked the prime minister whether he is following Raj dharm (duty of the ruler) as suggested to him by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee after the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Earlier in the day, tearing into the ruling Bitish-Lalu poll alliance, Modi asked the voters of Bihar to use the upcoming assembly polls as an opportunity to “free themselves from the jungle raj” by electing a BJP-led government to develop and modernise the state.
“You have suffered their arrogance, deceit and exploitation for the past 25 years. Do you want such a rule to continue for another five years,” the Prime Minister asked the rally in Gaya.
He said while the RJD stands for ‘rozana jungle raaj ka dar’ (‘Daily fear of jungle raj’), JD(U) stood for ‘Janata ka daman-utpidan’ (‘Suppression and oppression of the people’).
“The youth here [of Bihar state] leave their aged parents to go out of the state for employment. Do we need such a government? Can JD(U) and RJD be handed over the reins of power for one more term,” he asked the gathering which shouted back a resounding ‘no’.
Observing that Bihar was part of the ‘BIMARU’ states, Modi said BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were able to usher in development and bring the states out of the BIMARU status.
BIMARU denotes the backward states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“Give us five years, we will ensure that Bihar gets out of the ‘BIMARU’ category,” he said.