Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi sharpened his attack on Nitish Kumar, saying the Janata Dal-United leader's "arrogance" and "ambition" to become prime minister drove him to split from BJP, and compared the socio-economic conditions of Muslims in Gujarat and Bihar to claim he practised "true" secularism.
The Congress-RJD alliance was also targeted by the BJP prime ministerial candidate who called it a "bhrasht-bandhan" (corrupt alliance) and said even cows and buffaloes are afraid of it as it may deprive them of their food, a reference to Lalu Prasad's conviction in fodder scam.
Flanked by leaders of new partners Lokjanshakti Party and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party, Modi also lashed out at the Third Front, of which Kumar is one of the prime movers, calling it "a toli (group) of ex-prime ministers and more than a dozen PM hopefuls who wake up at the sound of elections and go to sleep for the remaining period".
The BJP leader chose the recent comments from Kumar that he had more experience than others to be the PM to attack him.
"Why was the BJP-JD-U alliance broken? Some said it was his (Kumar) habit to stab in the back.... We came to know of it four days back. The dream to become PM was not letting him sleep. His arrogance is higher than Mount Everest. He says nobody is as good a PM candidate as him," he told an election rally, his third in Bihar, at the Rangabhumi maidan.
Modi quoted from Sachar Committee's report to highlight the better socio-economic conditions of Muslims in Gujarat than Bihar.
He said only 24 per cent urban Muslims in Gujarat were poor compared to 45 per cent in Bihar and the figure was seven percent for rural Muslims in his state against 38 per cent in Bihar. He quoted literacy, health and development figures from the report to drive home his point.
"Everybody is doing vote bank politics in the name of Muslims. Dust has been thrown in your (Muslims) eyes in the name of secularism. I want to expose this lie.... We respect and honour diversity. The secularism of Gujarat is true," he said.
On the demand for special package of Bihar, he said his government would give this and anything else for the welfare of Bihar.
Modi also cited example of other states with Congress governments. In Assam, he said, seven per cent schools had computers, in Haryana 40 per cent, Maharashtra 45 per cent, Rajasthan (which till now had a Congress regime) with 22 per cent and Uttar Pradesh, where laptops were distributed to gain votes had only 10 per cent schools with computers.
He said against the national average of 22 per cent schools having computers, Gujarat "which was being attacked and abused day and night over various issues had 71 per cent schools with computers".
The BJP prime ministerial candidates took a jibe at Kapil Sibal questioning the minister, who he said thought himself to be a reservoir of knowledge, as to where the Akash tablets disappeared.
"Where are the Akash tablets gone. Are they lost in the sky. Where has the money gone," he said.
Taking a pot shot Nitish Kumar, Modi said the JD-U leader is not getting sound sleep these days due to his dream of becoming the prime minister.
"His arrogance is such that it is even higher than Mt Everest. He thinks no one in the world is as able as he is," he said.
Modi also attacked the Third Front saying it is a group of leaders "who were either former prime ministers or were PM-hopefuls, who had also got their clothes stitched waiting anxiously to be the prime minister".
"It is a 'toli' (group) of ex-prime ministers and more than a dozen PM-hopefuls who wake up with the bugle of polls and go to sleep again. They will again wake up when the next election comes," he said.
He also questioned where such leaders were during the Kosi river flood which unleashed misery on the people of the state. "When Kosi was in spate, did the Third Front come. Did you hear them. Did they shed tears on your misery or expressed their condolences, or come to help you.... Where were they when people were dying in Kosi river. I want to ask them," he said.
Lauding the NDA steered by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Modi said it is only such a coalition led by BJP which will keep all together and treat all as partners.
Modi said that there were three kinds of alliances -- 'gathbandhan' (coalition) represented by NDA under Vajpayee, 'brashtbandhan' (grouping of corrupt persons) and 'lathbandhan' (alliance of those indulging in violence).
Image: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar