Lucknow: JD(U) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday set the tone for the Assembly poll campaign in Uttar Pradesh and tried to position himself as a direct challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He fired the first shot in Varanasi, the constituency of Mr Modi. The signal from Mr Kumar was loud and clear — he could be the face of an anti-BJP alternative front in the general elections in 2019.
Mr Kumar was projected as Arjun in the iconic painting from the Mahabharata in posters that were plastered across the city, with Mr Sharad Yadav as his ‘saarthi’(guide) in the place of Lord Krishna, making it clear that he would lead the campaign against the BJP in UP.
“Yes, he is our Arjun and will demolish the army of Kauravas in the country,” said JD(U) state president Suresh Niranjan Bhaiyya.
Mr Kumar, who is looking at the possibility of a grand alliance of anti-BJP and secular outfits for the 2019 elections, avoided any criticism of Samajwadi president Mulayam Singh and said, “I respect him and will continue to do so. When we were fighting against the BJP in Bihar, he left us".
Mr Kumar is aware that with JD(U)’s minimal presence in the state he would need the support of at least one major player to challenge the BJP in the Assembly polls. The Congress incidentally is already on board.
Mr Kumar chose Varanasi for a workers’ meeting on Thursday for mainly two reasons — first, it is Prime Minister’s turf and, second, has a large Kurmi population — the caste that Mr Kumar belongs to. He intends to play the Kurmi card to dismantle BJP’s OBC dream, to an extent.
Playing the Bihar card and his victory over the “mighty BJP,” Mr Kumar said; “Varanasi knows how arrogant the BJP leaders can be. The people of this city are aware of how they have been fooled. The entire country knows this too. Bihar has given an apt reply to the BJP and it is the turn of Uttar Pradesh now,” he said.
Hitting out at the BJP for taking Bihar's grand alliance lightly, Mr Kumar slammed the party for turning its back on promises that it had made during the Lok Sabha elections.
“They said they would bring back black money stashed abroad within 100 days and each citizen would get around `15 lakhs. BJP president now says that this was just a ‘chunavi jumla’(election phrase). They have taken people for a ride,” he said.
Focusing on the rural belt, he said that the Modi government had promised that 50 per cent profit would be ensured for farmers while announcing the minimum support price. “Has anyone got it? Have the youth got the jobs they were promised,” he asked.
“Their slogan says ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ but their real story began from UP. First it was love jihad, then ghar wapsi’ and then beef. Now they are talking of ‘deshbhakti’ though their ideological ancestors, the RSS, had nothing to do with the freedom struggle,” Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said....