PATNA, Oct 27 — As serial bomb blasts killed five people, including four at his rally, BJP’s star Narendra Modi Sunday called for Hindu-Muslim unity even as he viciously targeted Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Addressing hundreds of thousands at the Gandhi Maidan here, Modi poured scorn on Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and called dynastic politics a curse on Indian democracy.
In a clear departure from the Hindutva politics he has advocated, the Gujarat chief minister said Hindus and Muslims must battle poverty instead of fighting one another.
“Do the Hindus want to fight poverty or Muslims?” he thundered, his question directed at the Hindu section of the audience. He quickly added: “Do the Muslims want to fight poverty or Hindus?”
The Bharatiya Janata Party veteran went on to answer the question himself, saying both communities needed to battle poverty.
“We want to bring together all communities and religions in our country.”
Modi said the only answer to the economic woes of the nation was economic development — “vikas, vikas, vikas!”
In an obvious bid to puncture criticism that he was biased towards the Hindus, Modi pointed out how some of the most visible economic development in Gujarat took place in areas where Muslims live in large numbers.
Modi made no reference in his hour-long speech to the string of bomb explosions that killed five people and injured over 80, six of the blasts occurring in and around the Gandhi Maidan.
He, however, urged the gathering to disperse peacefully and not to be provoked under any circumstances. He later told the media that the blasts were “deeply saddening”.
In his speech, Modi launched a blistering attack on Nitish Kumar, blaming him for the collapse of the 17-year-long alliance between the BJP and the ruling Janata Dal-United.
But he did not spare Rahul Gandhi — his favorite punching bag — and the now jailed RJD leader Lalu Prasad either.
Amid applause and sloganeering, Modi accused Nitish Kumar of “betraying” the people of Bihar by dumping the BJP in June over its decision to give a larger role to the Gujarat strongman.
Making an emotive appeal, he called the voters to “punish” Nitish Kumar in the next election.
Modi said he was not surprised when Nitish Kumar ended the alliance with the BJP. “If my friend (Nitish Kumar) can ‘betray’ Jaya Prakash Narayan or JP, then he could certainly ‘betray’ the BJP too.”
“Nitish Kumar is a ‘chela’ of Lohia and JP, both of who fought the Congress all through their lives. But Nitish Kumar back-stabbed them by playing into the hands of the Congress.”
Modi accused Nitish Kumar of playing “dirty politics” to stop him from visiting Bihar.
“Several times I was stopped from visiting Bihar. But I tolerated the insult for the sake of Bihar.”
Modi also recalled how he was humiliated in 2010 when Nitish Kumar cancelled a dinner for him and other BJP leaders. “I did not react for the sake of keeping Bihar free from jungle raj.”
Modi roared that it was the BJP which made Nitish Kumar the chief minister in 2000 for seven days and again in 2005.
The Gujarat leader recalled his early days when he sold tea at a small railway station to say that Congress politicians had no first hand idea of poverty. “I know what poverty is, I used to sell tea.”
Modi said he would continue to call Rahul Gandhi a ‘shehzada’ (prince) till the Congress dumped the dynastic politics of the Gandhi family.
“I know that critics are always throwing mud at me. But the more you do that, the more will the ‘lotus’ bloom,” he said to loud cheers, referring to the BJP election symbol.