Modi, Rahul hit campaign trail in Bihar: Local issues take backseat as leaders weaponise Article 370, Galwan clash

Modi and Gandhi kicked off their campaign in battleground Bihar on Friday and went for each other's jugular over the Chinese intrusion in Ladakh, both crying 'insult' to soldiers and their families

Press Trust of India October 23, 2020 23:35:33 IST
Modi, Rahul hit campaign trail in Bihar: Local issues take backseat as leaders weaponise Article 370, Galwan clash

Modi, Rahul hit campaign trail in Bihar; Article 370, Chinese incursions feature high up in political discourse

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi kicked off their campaign in battleground Bihar on Friday and went for
each other's jugular over the Chinese intrusion in Ladakh, both crying "insult" to soldiers and their families.

The abrogation of Article 370 and farm sector reform laws figured prominently in the bitter electoral discourse where "jungle raj" during the 15 years of RJD dispensation, the migrant crisis and joblessness were also hotly debated.

Addressing three back to back rallies in Dehri-on-Sone, Gaya and Bhagalpur, Modi castigated the opposition over its stand on the abrogation of Article 370 and the Galwan Valley clash between Indian and Chinese troops in Eastern Ladakh, an emotive issue for the state as several soldiers of the Bihar regiment were killed in hand-to-hand combat.

Appealing to the nationalistic zeal of the electorate, Modi raised 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 valiantly laid down their lives for the tricolour but did not let "Mother India bow her head".

Rahul Gandhi hit back, accusing the prime minister of "insulting" the soldiers with his comments that there was no Chinese intrusion into India. Addressing a rally in Hisua in Nawada district, Gandhi mounted a blistering assault on the prime minister over the intrusion by the Chinese military in Ladakh.

"They have seized 1,200 sq km of our land. But when the Chinese army intruded, why did our prime minister insult our soldiers by saying that nobody entered into the Indian side?" he said.

"You ask any army jawan and he will tell you that today the Chinese army is standing in the area which we used to patrol earlier. Our land has been snatched away from us," he said.

"The question is, Modi ji, when will you throw out the Chinese soldiers sitting in our territory?" Gandhi asked. In his speeches, the prime minister also took on the opposition over their agitation against the farm reform laws enacted by his government, saying the protests 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, Modi said, asserting that India will not back off from the decisions it has taken.

Rahul Gandhi hit back again at a rally in Kahalgaon, saying prime minister Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had "broken the backbone" of the farmers, and medium and small businesses.

"They had ended the mandi system and the MSP regime in Bihar already and now they are doing so across the country. He (Modi) is going to render lakhs of people jobless," he said. "Narendra Modi, who calls himself a nationalist and a patriot, has weakened the country in the past six years.

Hindustan is weak today. Its economy is suppressed, farmers oppressed and small shopkeepers restless. That's why China has intruded into Indian territory," the Congress leader alleged. He also flagged another emotive issue of migrant labourers who returned to the state in desperation after they were "chased away" from their places of work in other states during the lockdown.

"Labourers from Bihar were chased away from Delhi and other states. They came on foot. When you were walking hungry and thirsty, did Modi help you? Did he help the labourers of Bihar?"

"He bows before labourers, but doesn't help them when they need it. When you were dying of starvation and walking to your homes thousands of kilometers away, Modi didn't offer you trains or buses. He will bow before you but will work for Ambanis and Adanis," Gandhi alleged. Unemployment was another major issue in the bitter electoral discourse.

In his speeches, the prime minister took a dig at the grand alliance's promise of sanctioning 10 lakh government jobs made by Tejashwi Yadav, the opposition's chief ministerial candidate. "Can those who look at government jobs as a means for taking bribes ensure creation of jobs?" Modi asked. Gandhi responded with a vengeance, saying the BJP's promise of creating 19 lakh jobs in Bihar over the next five years was akin to its pledge of depositing Rs 15 lakh in the bank accounts of people.

"You had promised two crore jobs before the last election. Did you fulfil this promise? No," he said. Modi launched a bilious attack on the RJD over alleged lawlessness that marked its 15-year stint in power in Bihar, claiming it was a reign of "crime" and "loot".

"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 to be mindful of the "chaos and lawlessness of the 1990s", and remarked since Bihar now has electricity, it "does not need lantern", an obvious reference to the election 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.

Hitting out at the Congress without mentioning it by name, Modi alleged the UPA 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.

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