Bihar polls: Modi's Bhagalpur speech fell way short of 56 inches
Contrary to expectations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's didn't deliver any punches in his speech in Bhagalpur. This was his fourth and last Parivartan rally in Bihar. Everyone thought he would give a strong reply to Sunday's Swabhiman rally in which Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad and Sonia Gandhi tore into him with ferocity. But that didn't happen.
A large crowd had gathered to listen to Modi at the rally venue, BJP workers waited with bated breath, hoping that their icon's speech will keep their 56 inch morale intact for the upcoming elections.
They particularly wanted Modi to respond to RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who ridiculed the PM, BJP and its allies during his speech on Sunday.
Modi began nervously. It was a sweaty, humid day because of which Modi had to repeatedly wipe his face, forehead and glasses.
In terms of content, Modi was underwhelming. Instead of addressing his opponents' criticism of his performance in the last 15 months, Modi merely said that "Lalu and Nitish need to give an account of 25 years of their rule in Bihar".
No comment on alliance
All the NDA constituents were present with Modi on the stage. Only a day earlier, NDA leaders were engaged in discussions on seat distribution but there was no final agreement. It was expected that Modi would make a statement on the alliance that would help clinch an agreement at the earliest. But he completely ignored the issue.
Instead he invoked history to attack Lalu and Nitish. "It is unfortunate that the pupils of Ram Manohar Lohiaa, Karpuri Thakur and Jayaprakash Narayan are sharing a stage with Congress leaders," he said.
Modi kept citing numbers such as his Rs 1.25 lakh crore package. But this ended up confusing the audience
One of the best points he made was attacking the Grand Alliance leaders for being obsessed with him.
He said, "I thought only the youth and BJP supporters keep repeating my name. Here our opponents are also chanting Modi, Modi, Modi.."
It's all about the money
He devoted a significant part of his speech to the "package war" is going on between the Bihar government and the Centre. Modi had announced a 1.25 lakh crore package for the state, Nitish countered it by claiming that this was nothing but re-packaging of existing schemes.
Citing more numbers, Modi said, "The 14th Finance Commission has decided to set aside Rs 3.74 lakh crore for Bihar in the next five years. The 1.25 lakh crore package announced is not included in it".
Apparently, Modi's volley of numbers ended up confusing the audience.
Change of strategy?
The one thing Modi seems to have learnt after the Swabhiman rally was to avoid personal attacks. He didn't call out the full names of his opponents, as he usually does. Also missing were his usual attacks on Lalu Prasad, centred around Jungle Raj, his family-based politics or his alleged betrayal of Yadavs.
Perhaps this could be a conscious strategy to puncture the adversarial narrative being promoted by Nitish and Lalu. Or was it just a bad day at work?