Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Tejashwi Yadav on Friday addressed a joint political rally, the first since the two erstwhile rivals buried the hatchet and aligned nearly four months ago.
The occasion was the campaign for the by-election to Kurhani assembly segment, necessitated by the disqualification of Anil Sahani, the sitting MLA belonging to Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal.
The chief minister's Janata Dal-United has thrown its hat in the ring to retain the seat for the ruling 'Mahagathbandhan'.
The longest-serving septuagenarian CM mocked the Bharatiya Janata Party, his former alliance partner which he had dumped in August, and underscored "all other parties have come together and they (BJP) have been left alone. Their leaders, who have been sidelined in their own party, are trying to revive their own fortunes by traducing us".
"Nothing happens in their camp except prachaar-prasaar (propaganda). They did not agree to our demand for a special status category. Had it been accepted Bihar would have progressed at an even greater speed," said Kumar, adding "I now feel that I am back home (puraani jagah par laut aaye hain). We shall now work together."
The JD-U leader claimed that the 'Mahagathbandan' government works for all but its efforts do not get "adequate publicity".
"Journalists are told not to report our accomplishments because of pressure from above... Ours is a government that works for all and does not view the society through a divisive prism like Hindu versus Muslim," said Kumar, who has now become a strong votary of opposition unity for the next Lok Sabha polls.
The rally also witnessed a skirmish between 'Mahagathbandhan' supporters and job aspirants who had qualified teachers' eligibility tests and were awaiting appointment.
"I saw some job seekers here holding placards. They seem to have gone away. I want to tell all such people that their grievances would be squarely addressed. We are refraining from making a concrete announcement here because the model code of conduct comes in the way," the chief minister said.
Yadav, who spoke before Kumar, tore into the BJP, claiming that the saffron party was "afraid of losing the 2024 battle" even as he sought to draw on the appeal of his father, the RJD's founding president Lalu Prasad who enjoys cult status among a large section of society.
"You shall be casting votes on December 5, the day on which Laluji will be undergoing a kidney transplant. I am going to Singapore to be by his side. I spoke to him earlier in the day and he wanted to know which way the wind was blowing in Kurhani. I have assured him that the Mahagathbandhan will be winning hands down," the Deputy CM said.
Yadav said his father has faced court cases and terms in jail and this has taken a toll on his health.
"But he was never afraid of the BJP. The same blood flows in my veins," said Yadav evoking applause.
He also asked people belonging to his community to ”beware of attempts by the BJP to create a rift among the Yadavs. Stand united in supporting the JD-U candidate Manoj Singh Kushwaha. Forgive him if he has, in the past, offended you. Ask your womenfolk to remember that in this by-election, the lantern (RJD poll symbol) is with the arrow (JD-U's election symbol)".
Yadav also alleged that the BJP wanted to push the society into a vortex of communal tension by always speaking in terms of Hindus versus Muslims.
"But we are thankful to have a CM like Nitish Kumarji who always keeps a close watch on such incidents and takes prompt action against the guilty," the RJD leader said.
He also reaffirmed the government's commitment to job creation on a large scale, recalling, "I had promised 10 lakh jobs during the 2020 assembly polls. The chief minister, to our delight, not just agreed but announced in his Independence speech that he would like to create employment for people twice the number."
"Recruitments have already started taking place. Those who feel that they have been left out must not worry. You will be getting some good news very soon," Yadav said.
The JD-U candidate is locked in a straight contest with the BJP's Kedar Gupta. Voting is scheduled on December 5 and results will be out on December 8.