Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday indirectly ticked off his detractors who have been training guns at him over his alleged reluctance to move out of his official residence since the outbreak of COVID-19.
Kumar, who would be running for his fourth consecutive term as chief minister in the assembly elections due in a few months, also said he was confident that the people will "give us another chance to serve them. I always believe in fulfilling promises. My promise for the next tenure is -- har khet ko pani (water for irrigating every farm)".
At a function organised at the CM's secretariat, Kumar inaugurated through video conference road construction projects worth more than Rs 500 crore catering to districts like East Champaran, Lakhisarai and Rohtas.
With a ghost of a smile on his lips, Kumar displayed mock anger and turned towards Chief Secretary Deepak Kumar and said, "I do not feel happy inaugurating projects from so far. From the next time, kindly make arrangements so that we can visit the place concerned and behold the projects upon completion."
The chief minister also said, "I understand that many restrictions have been put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. But we can find a way out, observing all the guidelines and social distancing."
Kumar recalled that he had visited East Champaran and Lakhisarai for laying foundation of Rs 263.43-crore RCC bridge and a barrage involving an expenditure of Rs 146.25 crore, respectively.
"I would have preferred to be at these places again, when the projects have been completed for dedicating these to the public. I would have similarly liked to be at Sasaram," he said, referring to the district headquarters of Rohtas where foundation stone for a 122.39 crore bypass was laid.
The chief minister's remarks came amid repeated barbs by the opposition RJD, and aides-turned-adversaries like Prashant Kishor, that Kumar was feeling "scared" of stepping out of his house.
RJD's chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav has announced that his party workers across the state will beat drums on June 24 when the 69-year-old Kumar would have "completed 100 days staying at home".
The CM added that he would also like to visit places where works were under progress and review things first hand, in a veiled rebuff to Yadav's claim that Kumar was unaware of the ground realities and went by whatever inputs he was fed by the bureaucrats.
Kumar, who heads the JD(U), also subtly berated his arch rival Lalu Prasad, the founding president of RJD -- which he ousted from power in 2005 -- and said "before we took over, connectivity through roads and bridges was so poor. There has been such a massive improvement since then".
"We also place emphasis on maintenance of roads, since only construction is not enough. I remember when I was a child, my house was situated alongside a major highway and maintenance of roads used to be given priority. Things deteriorated over the years and in the 1990s maintenance seemed to have been given up altogether," said Kumar, referring to the period during which Prasad and his wife ruled Bihar as successive chief ministers.
He also insisted that the response of the people of Bihar to the COVID-19 safety guidelines has been exemplary.
Cabinet colleagues like Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, road construction minister Nand Kishore Yadav and water resources minister Sanjay Jha were among those who also addressed the function.