Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday launched his campaign for the Bihar assembly elections with three back to back rallies where he castigated the opposition over its stand on repeal of Article 370 and reminded the people of the 15-year reign of 'crime' and 'loot' under the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
Modi addressed rallies in Rohtas, Gaya and Bhagalpur districts, where he shared the stage with Chief MinisterNitish Kumar and excoriated the Congress-led opposition for adopting a contrarian position on 'any step taken in national interest'.
The prime minister counted abrogation of Article 370, the law against triple talaq, commencement of construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya, and military operations at the borders among the steps taken in national interest which the opposition frowned upon.
Appealing to the nationalistic zeal of the electorate, Modi raked up the issue of annulment of Article 370 which bestowed special status on the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
"You tell me, was not the country waiting for Article 370 to be scrapped? When the NDA government did that, they are talking about restoring the provision if they are back in power.
"Still they have the audacity to come and seek votes in Bihar which sends its sons and daughters to protect the nation. Is it not an insult to the people of Bihar?" he told an election rally at Dehri-on-Sone in Rohtas district.
Referring to the Galwan Valley clash with Chinese troops, Modi said the sons of Bihar laid down their lives for the tricolour but did not let 'Mother India bow her head'.
The soldiers of Bihar were also martyred in the Pulwama attack, he said.
True to form, Modi commenced his speeches at Dehri, Gaya and Bhagalpur by greeting the people in the local dialects Bhojpuri, Magahi and Angika respectively.
The prime minister began his address at the first rally in Rohtas by paying tributes to late Ram Vilas Paswan, a member of his cabinet, and former Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh who died a month ago shortly after burning bridges with Lalu Prasads RJD.
Paswan's son Chirag, the Lok Janshakti Party president who has pulled out of the National Democratic Alliance vowing to dislodge Kumar from power while proclaiming his loyalty to Modi, profusely thanked him for the gesture and tweeted: 'As a son, it is natural for me to be
moved by the respect and love shown by the prime minister for my deceased father.'
Modi did not name Chirag but referred to the 'confusion' being sought to be created by some people.
"But there is a good trait among Biharis and that is clarity. They don't get confused," he said.
Modi reminded the electorate rally after rally to vote for the candidates of Janata Dal-United, Bharatiya Janata Party, Hindustani Awam Morcha and Vikassheel Insaan Party that constitute the NDA in Bihar.
Without naming any opposition party, he said, their protests against the recent farm reform laws were in fact aimed at 'saving' middlemen and brokers in the garb of backing the Minimum Support Price regime and agriculture 'mandis'.
They had spoken the language of middlemen and brokers even when the Rafale fighter aircraft were bought, he said, asserting that India will not back off from the decisions it has taken.
While speaking of various development initiatives of the NDA governments at the Centre and in the state, he spoke of frequent heinous crimes like 'murders, dacoity and extortion' under the 15-year rule of Lalu Prasad Yadav's RJD and said people can now live without any fear.
"The people of Bihar cannot forget the era when life would come to a standstill after sunset. Today, roads, electricity and lights are there. The biggest thing is that a common man in the state can live without fear," he said.
Without mentioning the RJD by name, Modi made a series of scathing attacks on the party, asking young voters be mindful of the 'chaos and lawlessness of the 1990s' and remarked 'Bihar now has electricity, it does not need lantern', an obvious reference to the poll symbol of Lalu Prasad's party.
"People used to be wary of buying cars as workers of a political party used to be on the prowl, carrying out kidnappings for ransom. Train travellers used to stay back at the station if they reached their destination in Bihar late in the night. People travelling through the state by road used to spend the journey in fear of abductors who could strike anywhere, any time," he alleged.
He also took a dig at the promise of 10 lakh government jobs made by Prasad's son Tejashwi Yadav, the chief ministerial candidate of the 5-party grand alliance.
"Can those who look at government jobs as a means for taking bribes ensure creation of jobs?"
Hitting out at the Congress without mentioning it by name, Modi alleged the United Progressive Alliance governments headed by the party stalled Bihar's development.
"For 10 years they vented anger over their defeat in Bihar on the people of the state. They wasted 10 years of Nitish Kumar and did not allow him to work," the prime minister said.
He also promised the people of the primarily agrarian state that the 'Swamitva' scheme under which villagers are being given property cards to enable them to seek loans and other financial benefits against their immovable assets will be implemented in Bihar after the elections.
Modi also spoke about his government's efforts to root out Naxalism, which central Bihar has reeled under for decades, and boosting tourism and education sectors.
"The state now has IITs and IIMs. Can those with little education understand its value," he said in an apparent reference to Tejashwi Yadav who is a high school dropout.
Modi also expressed delight over opinion polls predicting a win for the NDA, even though many of these have shown that the ruling coalition was ahead of its rivals only by a very thin margin.
At his final rally of the day in Bhagalpur, Modi said, "Wherever I have gone, I have sensed that people have made up their mind to vote NDA back to power and bless Nitish babu with another term."
People have decided that those who have a history of making Bihar 'Bimaru' and looted it when in power will not be allowed to rule it again, Modi said.
'BIMARU' is an acronym for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, considered laggard states on development parameters.
Barring the rally at Dehri where people were seen jostling with each other to comment on TV about the election prospects of parties, social distancing norms were enforced elsewhere.
People were seated on ground or chairs away from each other and wore masks.
The Election Commission had Wednesday warned political parties of action if its instructions on maintaining crowd discipline and other COVID precautions were violated.
It had directed the state's Chief Electoral Officer and the district administrations to invoke appropriate penal provisions under the Disaster Management Act and the Indian Penal Code against candidates found violating its orders.