Patna: Loudspeakers fell silent as a high-decibel vitriol-filled campaigning for 49 seats going to poll in the first phase of Bihar assembly elections ended this evening.
Though the electioneering got off to positive start with the two main contenders to power-- BJP-led NDA and JD(U)-RJD- Congress alliance--initially singing the development tune, it soon turned into a slanging match, with rivals freely engaging in name-calling.
From 'Shaitan' (devil) to 'Brahma Pisach' (super devil) to 'Chara Chor' (fodder thief) to 'Narbhakshi' (man eater), they called each other all.
As campaigning peaked, Lalu Prasad's "Hindus also eat beef" remark was hotly debated, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking to turned the tables on the RJD boss, who had latched onto RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's call for a review of the reservation policy to claim that the BJP-led Centre was contemplating scrapping caste-based quotas.
As Lalu and the anti-BJP alliance's chief ministerial candidate Nitish Kumar harped on the alleged move to scrap quotas, rally after rally, to consolidate the backward caste votes, the RJD supremo's "Hindus also eat beef" remark, made in the aftermath of the Dadri lynching episode, gave BJP and Modi an opportunity to counter one sensitive issue with another.
Modi vigorously stirred Bihar's melting electoral pot by accusing Lalu of "insulting" the "yaduvanshis" (Lalu's own yadav clansmen), who rear cattle, by his comment.
"What all is he saying. What all Yadavs eat? Whatever position Lalu rose to, it was because of these Yaduvanshis and he insulted them. What kind of abuses you are hurling at them. Is it not an insult of Yadavs and Bihar? Do not humiliate the Yaduvanshis so much? Laluji, these Yaduvanshis helped you to come to power," said Modi, addressing elections rallies in Munger, Begusarai and Samastipur on Thursday.
Modi's remarks provoked accusations of trying to communalise the elections.
"The real Modi on display -- brazen attempt to add communal texture to Bihar polls, but deafening silence on deplorable incident of Dadri," said Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Kumar said it was for all to see "why Vajpayee ji was forced to remind him (Modi) to follow Raj Dharma, but wonder who will do the Vajpayee today ?"
Warnings of a return of "jungle raj", a term used by Lalu's critics to describe alleged lawlessness during RJD's 15-year rule, was an oft repeated refrain of the NDA leaders, including Modi and Shah.