Arrah: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today announced a mega package of Rs 1.25 lakh crore in central funds for Bihar, raising the stakes in the battle for the state which votes for a new government by November.
"I am here today to honour my promise... how much do you want? Rs 50,000 crore, 60,000, 70,000, 75,000, 80,000? I am announcing a package of Rs 1.25 lakh crore," PM Modi said to thunderous applause. He was later criticised by chief minister Nitish Kumar who said, "was he bidding for Bihar?"
PM Modi made the announcement not at election rally but at a government function in Arrah. His address, however, was not constrained by that detail, also featuring a scathing attack on Nitish Kumar.
"I am surprised that on the one hand, he says Bihar is not BIMARU (backward), and on the other, he keeps asking for something or the other," the PM said in reference to the Chief Minister's longstanding demand for big central aid for Bihar.
An economic package for the underdeveloped state has always been a key issue in elections and the state's BJP leaders are banking on today's announcement to give them a massive political advantage.
Bihar is a must-win election for the BJP, which would like to put the debacle in Delhi, the last state election it fought, behind it. Unlike Delhi, the party has gone back to the tested formula of projecting not a state leader but PM Modi and his development agenda at the centre of its campaign.
In his two speeches in Bihar today - the second at an election rally in Saharsa - the Prime Minister pitched his government's flagship schemes promising to "change Bihar's destiny."
In Saharsa, he again attacked Nitish Kumar, this time accusing him of "arrogance" for having once rejected aid for floods from Gujarat of which Mr Modi was then chief minister.
Nitish Kumar hit back saying, "The PM has called me both arrogant and a beggar. How can I be both?"