Patna: Nitish Kumar has in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, challenged him to withdraw comments he made about the Bihar Chief Minister's "DNA" at a recent election rally in the state.
He has taken the battle to PM Modi's turf, releasing the letter this morning on Twitter, the social media site that he joined only recently and where PM Modi is the third most followed leader in the world.
PM Modi had said at a rally in Bihar last month that Nitish Kumar "not only disrespected me but also disrespected a Mahadalit like Jitan Ram Manjhi... There seems to be some problem in his DNA because the DNA of democracy is not like that. In democracy, you give respect even to your political rivals."
"The issue has been troubling many of us since then," writes Mr Kumar, addressing the PM as "Respected Modiji." He has attacked the PM's comment as "unbecoming of the office you hold."
"I am a son of Bihar. My DNA is the similar as that of the people of Bihar... I grew up in a humble household in rural Bihar... Most of us feel that these statements, beyond questioning my own descent, have disrespected the lineage of our people and have denigrated the great legacy of the state," the Chief Minister writes.
"The PM will respond to this letter," said senior minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is from Bihar.
But within hours, the NDA responded with a letter addressed to the people of Bihar, signed by Sushil Modi, CP Thakur, Mr Kumar's friend-turned-foe Jitan Ram Manjhi, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party leader Upendra Kushwaha and Ram Vilas Paswan, leader of Lok Janashakti Party.
Ridiculing Mr Kumar's letter as "flop comedy", the letter alleged that the Chief Minister had distorted PM Modi's words. His action was in "direct conflict with the ethos of Bihar," the letter read, adding, "Bihar is not Nitish and Nitish is not Bihar".
Mr Kumar is expected to feature the "insult to Bihar" in his election campaign against Mr Modi's BJP in the assembly elections due by October. His chief campaign strategist is Prashant Kishor, who is credited with designing PM Modi's famous "Chai pe Charcha" campaign.