Nitish Kumar’s "arrogance" and "ambition" to become prime minister drove him to sever relations with the BJP, claims Mr. Modi

Presenting himself as a “truly secular” leader and sharpening his attack on Bihar Chief Minister and fellow prime ministerial aspirant Nitish Kumar, BJP leader Narendra Modi on Monday promised voters in the State a special development package if he came to power at the Centre.

A special package for Bihar has been a major political plank of Mr. Kumar.

Internal discord

Meanwhile, the BJP central leadership sought to play down the internal discord over the Varanasi and Lucknow constituencies, and project the party as the natural choice of regional parties and leaders.

Referring to the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s support to the BJP, and alluding to the expected merger of the BSR Congress in Karnataka and the likely alliance with the Telugu Desam Party, senior leader Arun Jaitley said: “These developments will add to the strength of the BJP in the eastern and southern parts of India where the party traditionally was not a strong political force.”

BJP president Rajnath Singh said the party’s Central Election Committee would decide on candidates for each constituency, including Varanasi and that “would be final.” Mr. Modi is reportedly considering contesting from Varanasi where senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi is the sitting MP. Mr. Singh, reportedly keen to contest from Lucknow, now held by Lalji Tandon, said there was no disagreement in the party over these seats.

But the BJP’s calculations hinge substantially on how the party performs in Bihar and that possibly explains Mr. Modi’s no-holds-barred onslaught on Mr. Kumar. Mr. Modi said Mr. Kumar’s “arrogance” and “ambition” to become prime minister drove him to sever relations with the BJP, and compared the socio-economic conditions of Muslims in Gujarat and Bihar to claim he practised “true” secularism. The Congress-RJD alliance was also targeted by the BJP leader, who called it a “Bhrasht-Bandhan” (corrupt alliance). He said even cows and buffaloes were afraid of it as it may deprive them of their food, a reference to Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad’s conviction in the fodder scam.

Mr. Modi ridiculed the third alternative, of which Mr. Kumar is one of the prime movers, calling it “a ‘Toli’ (group) of ex-Prime Ministers and more than a dozen PM hopefuls who wake up at the sound of elections and go to sleep for the remaining period.”

The Gujarat Chief Minister chose the recent comments of Mr. Kumar that he had more experience than others to be prime minister to attack him. “Why was the BJP-JD(U) alliance broken? Some said it was his [Mr. Kumar’s] habit to stab in the back ... We came to know of it four days ago. The dream to become PM was not letting him sleep. His arrogance is higher than Mount Everest. He says nobody is as good a PM candidate as him,” he said.

(With inputs from PTI)

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