Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday tore into the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar, calling its chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav the "yuvraaj" (crown prince) of "jungle raj" and attacking him over the promise of 10 lakh government jobs.
He cautioned people against the double whammy Bihar could face if those responsible for having turned the state beemar (sick) were voted to power amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing back to back rallies in Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur in north Bihar, and the state capital, the prime minister also set the tone for the day with a dash of Hindutva when he made a mention of Ayodhya at his first election meeting.
"Forget about government jobs. If they succeed (in winning), Bihar will lose jobs even in the private sector. The party has copyright over kidnappings and companies will be forced to shut shop and flee as they will be under duress because of extortion calls," Modi alleged.
He was apparently referring to Yadav's alluring promise of sanctioning 10 lakh permanent government jobs at the first cabinet meeting if his party was voted to power.
"It's not the time for hawa hawai (empty promises). These elections are an opportunity to re-elect those who have pulled Bihar out of deep darkness....Please ask yourself the question does the yuvraj of jungle raj have the credibility and the experience to fulfil the aspirations of the state's lower and middle classes," he said.
He lauded Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar for leading the state from misgovernance to good governance, from darkness to light, and from the phase where kidnapping had become an industry to the one full of opportunities.
Addressing Kumar as the vartamaan evam bhaavi mukhyamantri (the present and future CM)", Modi said progress made by Bihar in the last decade-and-a-half has raised people's aspirations and the state was poised to touch new milestones like becoming the next IT hub.
Repeatedly attacking Tejashwi Yadav, Modi said,"He has been brought up on a value system where public money is looted to help one's own family prosper. For such people job creation becomes a tool to make crores of rupees."
Sending out a subtle message in Hindutva at his first rally in Darbhanga, Modi said he was glad to be in Mithila, the birth place of Mother Sita.
"And the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya has also begun. Those siyasi log' (his political opponents) who used to taunt us over the delay in construction of the Ram temple are now compelled to clap in applause," he said.
The prime minister warned the electorate against voting for the opposition Grand Alliance when the state was reeling under COVID-19.
"Bihar is facing two dangers today. COVID is a big threat to Bihar and the world. The other threat are forces that made Bihar a 'beemar' (sick) state. If you want to keep yourself and your family healthy, guard against them.
Otherwise the state will face a double whammy," he said.
"Crores of rupees now being spent on tackling corona in Bihar will be swindled if you don't vote the NDA to power again," he claimed.
The prime minister said elements inimical to Bihar's progress were "eyeing greedily" the funds the Centre has kept aside for the state's development.
In an apparent acknowledgement of the preference of the people of the state for government jobs, Modi dwelt on the measures taken by the Centre for bringing about transparency in competitive tests and streamlining examinations.
Politics over jobs has occupied centrestage in Bihar's electoral discourse with the BJP announcing creation of 19 lakh employment opportunities after Tejashwi's commitment to sanctioning 10 lakh government jobs.
He also spoke about the caste conflicts during the 15 years of Lalu-Rabri dispensation before the NDA came to power in 2005.
"Their politics is based on 'jhooth, fareb aur bhram' (lies, cheating and confusion). They don't have a roadmap for Bihar's development nor any experience in good governance," he said.
Modi stuck to his style of connecting with the people by greeting the crowds at each venue in the dialects spoken in the region and invoking memories of local heroes.
In a deft attempt at reaching out to the lower castes, he paid tributes to Bihar Dalit icon Baba Chauharmal while delivering his maiden speech in Darbhanga. Baba Chauharmal, who legend has it, was hounded for falling in love with the daughter of an upper caste landlord, hailed from Mokama in Patna district where, incidentally, polling is taking place in the first phase.
He left the Darbhanga crowd in ruptures by recalling, in Maithili, the medieval era Maithili poet Vidyapati and referring to paan (betel leaves), maachh (fish) and makhaan (fox nuts), which are produced in the region in abundance.
While in Patna, he recalled the ancient city's association with legendary figures like mathematician Aryabhatta, emperor Asoka and Guru Gobind Singh, and evoked applause from chief minister Nitish Kumar and others sharing the dais when he mouthed a few lines in Magahi.
According to the state BJP, 300 huge LED screens were placed at various parks and public spaces to prevent crowding at the venues.
The prime minister seemed delighted to see the massive turnouts at the rallies and, on more than one occasion, had to halt his speech and request enthusiastic supporters to stop chanting 'Modi, Modi' and quietly take their seats.