Prime Minister Narendra Modi today ripped into the Congress, accusing the party of providing ammunition to Pakistan with its criticism of the government over the air strikes in Pakistan's Balakot. Contending that the Congress stance would only please Pakistan, he said, "They asked for evidence of the surgical strikes. Now, they ask for evidence of the strikes by the Air Forces".
"I want to know from the Congress and other parties why they are bent on destroying the morale of the armed forces. Why is the Congress giving speeches where enemies are benefitting? When we had to stand united against terror factories, 21 parties united for questioning us," he added.
Pakistan, he said, is "applauding those words".
Congress was the one-time ally of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who, before today, had never shared stage with the Prime Minister politically and happened to be one of his biggest critics before ending the Grand Alliance and partnering the BJP in June 2017.
Today, the Congress is part of the opposition alliance in the state, and the party, along with ally Tejashwi Yadav, has accused the BJP of politicising the sacrifices of the soldiers.
The aim of the opposition, the Prime Minister said, is to "destroy Modi, while Modi is seeking to destroy terror," the Prime Minister said.
Their attitude towards national security... that's not relevant anymore. It is a new India. We don't remain quiet about sacrifices. We pay back at every instance. We are seeing what happens when we give fitting response," the Prime Minister said. Last week, the air force had targeted the Jaish-e Mohammad terror camp at Balakot.
PM Modi, who had been accused by Nitish Kumar of blocking special status of Bihar for the better part of the last four years, also explored in detail the Centre's initiatives in the state and praised the Chief Minister for implementing them properly.
From infrastructure to health and transport and the proposed metro rail in Patna, he presented an extensive list to the thousands of people gathered in Patna's Gandhi Maidan.
"I am happy that Nitish Babu worries about the poor and took Bihar out of its old ways and gave it a new direction," PM Modi said. He even praised Mr Kumar's efforts towards bringing electricity to the state's villages - a project he had criticised vehemently in the run-up to the 2015 assembly elections in the state.
Opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav, however, pointed out:
PM Modi didn't speak on Special Status, Special Package, Srijan Scam, Unemployment, Smart Cities, Agrarian Crisis, Corruption, Jobs, Black Money and his earlier promises. PM is unsuccessfully trying to pull Army in his narrow-minded politics to garner votes. #BiharRejectsModi— Tejashwi Yadav (@yadavtejashwi) March 3, 2019
Nitish Kumar is not known for his bonhomie with PM Modi. While the two had shared stage earlier for government functions, this is the first time they did so politically. Mr Kumar had quit the party in 2013 at the prospect of his being pitched as the NDA's Prime Ministerial candidate.
During the rule of the Grand Alliance - a coalition of Nitish Kumar, the Congress and Lalu Yadav - he and the Prime Minister had been engaged in sharp political attacks against each other.
PM Modi's barbs on the state's law and order and Mr Kumar's political DNA had provided the alliance campaign some much-needed boost ahead of the elections. Mr Kumar had portrayed it as a matter of injury to Bihar's pride. Thereafter, he became one of the sharpest critics of the Prime Minister in the opposition camp -- a phase that ended with the Grand Alliance.