- A video showed Nitish Kumar's angry reaction to the slogans at his rally
- "What are you saying?"- Nitish Kumar shouted in the middle of his address
- Don't do chaos here, the chief minister added
Opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav's jam-packed rallies have gone viral in the campaign for the Bihar election starting next week. The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader's promise of creating 10 lakh government jobs, repeated at every rally, draws the loudest cheers. On Wednesday, a different video showed Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's angry reaction to slogans of "Lalu Yadav Zindabad" at his rally.
"What are you saying? What are you saying?" - a furious Nitish Kumar shouted in the middle of his pitch for Chandrika Rai, a long-time RJD leader and Lalu Yadav aide who crossed over to the ruling Janata Dal United recently.
"Raise your hand, whoever is speaking such anap-shanaap (nonsense)," the Chief Minister demanded. A brief silence and someone shouted "chara chor (fodder thief)" - a reference to the corruption scandal for which Lalu Yadav was jailed.
That seemed to mollify Nitish Kumar somewhat but he continued: "Don't do halla (chaos) here. If you don't want to vote for me, then don't... The reason you came here... you will destroy the votes of the man for whom you are here."
The outburst betrays just how much Tejashwi Yadav's campaign cry of jobs and its unexpected pull among the masses has rattled the Chief Minister.
On Tuesday, Nitish Kumar, aiming for a fourth straight term as Chief Minister, ridiculed the RJD leader's claims at a rally, calling it an impossible promise that "no one on earth" could fulfil.
"I see this promise about jobs but people don't have knowledge or experience (to fulfill this promise). Have you seen such a thing in the entire world? Why only 10 lakh? If you're giving jobs, then give jobs to everyone," he said, questioning whether Tejashwi Yadav planned to raise money for his plan "from prison or by printing fake notes".
So far, his ally BJP had ignored the crowds. On Wednesday, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi put out a statement contesting the jobs promise with statistics. He said the salaries and payments of the current government employees amount to Rs 52,734 crores. Another 10 lakh employees will push the amount up to Rs 1.11 lakh crore.
The pushback has become critical with the Chief Minister and many ministers facing public resentment during their campaign, according to sources. This is not entirely a surprise; Nitish Kumar had been criticized for his handling of the migrants crisis, especially after more than 32 lakh people were forced to return to Bihar after they lost their jobs and homes during the coronavirus lockdown. Also, the BJP points out, after 15 years there is bound to be "boredom".
They had reckoned without jobs becoming a hot-button topic in Bihar and the 31-year-old Tejashwi, fighting his first election without father Lalu Yadav by him, resonating with the crowds. Unfazed by Nitish Kumar's disdain, the RJD leader called him "mentally and physically tired".
BJP sources said the huge crowds at Tejashwi's rallies were "natural" and "may even translate into votes", but it would all change when Prime Minister Narendra Modi started campaigning.
Bihar votes from October 28 for a new 243-member assembly. The results will be declared on November 10.