“Today is the last day of campaigning and day after are the polls. And this is my last election. Ant bhala to sab bhala,” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said at an election rally in Purnia on Thursday when the curtains came down on campaigning in the most high-stakes Assembly elections this year. In an emotive postscript to what he indicated could be his final election rally, Kumar said all’s well that ends well.
News18 went through the rally that Kumar addressed in Dhamdaha in Purnia on the final day of campaigning, with polling scheduled to happen in 78 constituencies on November 7, and looked some at his last month of political campaign.
Nyay ke Saath Vikas
In almost every election rally, Kumar has repeated this slogan he came up with last year. Kumar said his government had tried to ensure every section of society moves along and becomes a part of the momentum towards progress.
As an example of this, Kumar spoke about reservations he had introduced for the backward classes and women. “It was under my government that 50% reservation was announced for EBCs, OBCs, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It was under my tenure that reservation was introduced for EBCs and women in local body elections,” he said.
On the issue of female empowerment, Kumar said many people had mocked and criticised him for starting a free cycle scheme for girl students but all his critics came around when they saw its success. “We gave uniforms to girl students whose parents did not have money to buy them. We got the girl students cycles. People used to criticise us; they said this scheme will not work. But look at the impact it had. In the recent matriculation examinations, more girls than boys appeared,” he said.
To increase enrolment from sections where school enrolment ratio was low, Kumar said over 30,000 people from Mahadalit and minority communities had been employed to get students from their communities to school.
“Were there functioning hospitals in Bihar when we took over? Hardly 40 people visited Primary Health Centres during the 15 years previous to our government. We strengthened the health infrastructure so well, stocked PHCs with medicines, provided doctors, so that today more than 10,000 visit PHCs every month,” he said.
Roads and natural disaster response
Kumar said that during his 15-year tenure, roads had been built to connect villages with cities and cities with the state capital. He also spoke about how the government had augmented its response to natural disasters after he took over. “We said and we stand by the statement that the first right on government’s coffers is of the downtrodden, the poorest,” he said.
Power and water supply
“Before we took over, leave aside villages, even cities never used to have proper power supply. We worked hard to provide water to villages and to cities. Earlier the power consumption of such a large state used to be a measly 700 MW. Today the consumption of electricity in the state is 6,000 MW,” Kumar said, adding that the state had spent an additional Rs 5,000 crore to subside electricity for residents of Bihar.
After taking a two-minute break when he heard the sound of Azaan during which he kept his head bowed and eyes closed, Kumar continued talking about the piped water network he was working to expand quickly. He said after connecting all the villages with the state’s power network, he was planning to install solar street lights in all villages.
Law and order
Kumar said in the 15 years of RJD rule, people were scared to step out of their homes after dark whereas during his tenure the annual crime related statistics published by the Home Ministry showed that Bihar now stood at the 23rd position in the country in terms of crimes committed.
Jobs and development
Bihar was progressing at the rate of 12.84%, said Kumar, and because of changes made in industrial policy “and import of a lot of new technology, we are working to expand industries in the state so that nobody is forced to step out of their state and in fact people from other states have to come here to find work”.
Kumar, who has been Bihar Chief Minister six times and is now looking for his seventh tenure, ended his speech by saying, “You gave us time till now and for that I’m grateful to you… Today is the last day of campaigning and day after are the polls. And this is my last election. Ant bhala to sab bhala,” he said, asking for votes for his party’s sitting MLA and former cabinet minister Leshi Singh.
Kumar has seen his fair share of ups and downs during his political campaign over the past nearly a month, when he was under constant fire from the two youth leaders - opposition’s CM face Tejashwi Yadav and former ally LJP’s Chirag Paswan.
While Kumar has been seen to be addressing his rallies with his characteristic aplomb, sometimes he has also given into outbursts – responding to Paswan’s allegation, for instance, that “in that name of liquor ban people were illegally being labelled as smugglers”, by saying, “"people engaged in the illegal liquor business" wanted to oust him from power”.
At the end of his sixth term, Kumar seemed to have reserved most of his vitriol against Lalu Prasad’s family.
In a recent outburst at Chief Minister couple Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi, Kumar, without naming them, said, “They produce 8-9 kids. They have no faith on daughters. They had 7-8 daughters before a son. What kind of Bihar they want to make? If this is their ideal, what will happen to Bihar?”
Attacking Tejashwi from the platform of another rally, Kumar said, “Kahin koi ek school banaya tha…agar padhna chahte ho toh apne baap se pucho…apni maata se pucho…kahi koi school tha, ya ban raha tha (was there even one school built? If you want to know, ask your father..ask your mother. Was there any school? Was any school being built)."
This was an uncharacteristic outburst from Kumar at a rally at Alauli. Kumar, who doesn’t fail to remind women and people from Extremely Backward Classes, Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes about how the reservations introduced by him brought them into political mainstream, is also trying to impress the crucial 50% young electorate a lot of who he knows have not lived through the ‘jungle raj’ that he talks about in all his rallies.
In opposition to Tejashwi’s 10 lakh jobs promise, Kumar brandished his ‘7 Nishchay 2.0’, the first installment of which he had released in the 2015 assembly elections. As part of this program, he promised financial incentive of Rs 25,000 for girls passing Class 12 exams and Rs 50,000 for passing graduation and 50% grants for entrepreneurs, up to a maximum of Rs 3 lakh, for setting up a new business.
In one of his campaigns, Kumar had also alleged that JD(U) was forced to part ways with RJD with which it formed the government in 2015 because the latter’s patriarch did not just refuse to come clean on corruption allegations but also “resumed his old ways”. Kumar also alleged that the RJD had treated their recently deceased leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh badly in his last days.
Towards the end of the campaign, after Yogi Adityanath threatened to throw out through CAA-NRC “those who threatened the security of the country", Kumar again clarified his stand on the issue. This was important given that many seats that will go to polls in the third phase of polls have substantial Muslim population.
“Kaun kisko is desh se bahar karega…ye kisi ke paas dum nahi hai…sab Hindustan ke hain…kaun kisko bahar karega? (Who will drive out whom from this country…no one has the courage…everyone is from India…who will throw out whom?),” asked Kumar at a public meeting at Muslim-dominated Kochadhaman on Wednesday.