New Delhi: Facing one of the toughest electoral battles in his political career, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday reached out to migrants from the state in the national capital, inaugurating the Delhi Chapter of Bihar Foundation.
Faced with a ruckus by a group of slogan-shouting youths as soon as he rose to speak, Kumar, however, ruled out any "political" motive behind the event, saying the Foundation aims at connecting with the migrant population of the state living across the country and taking them to their roots.
The youths numbering over a dozen were shouting slogans against Kumar and were waving "Nitish Go Back" placards. Some of them raised slogans against the alleged physical torture and rape of women at Parbatta in Khagaria district recently.
Suggesting a political motive behind the ruckus, Kumar said the protesting youths had come pre-planned to interrupt the event in order to garner publicity.
"There is some disease, which does not go away. This will take time to go. Is this the occasion to do politics? Time for politics has come in Bihar. We will fight it out there. Whoever comes in the government, will he not honour people of Bihari Diaspora, who are doing good work?"
"At least the occasion should be chosen with proper thought. It's like protesting in one's house when there is an occasion for some social function. This means that those protesting have no attachment with this entire event and do not share the sentiments (of Biharis)," Kumar said.
However, the organisers of the event immediately pushed the youths away after a minor a scuffle. Taking potshots at them, Kumar said, "Media is also present here. What can be a better chance to get publicity. Whichever ideologies they belong to but doing this in an event, which aims at connecting people of Bihar is unfortunate."
"I thank all those too, whose sole purpose behind coming here was to create a ruckus. The news of Bihar Foundation otherwise would not have been published so much but now it will be carried out due to the ruckus created by them."
Crediting Kumar for "revival" of Bihar in last ten years, senior state minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary, who heads the Bihar Foundation, curiously referred to the "blurred page" of the history of Bihar.
"In that blurred period, talented people went out from Bihar and made a mark outside... And the revival of Bihar began since 2005 in the period of Nitish Kumar's government," he said in what appeared to be a veiled attack on the 15-year rule of Lalu Prasad's RJD, which preceded Nitish Kumar's rule.
Kumar's JD-U and RJD are fighting this Assembly Election in an alliance and Congress, which ruled Bihar before them, is also part of the combine.
Chaudhary said everybody knows under whose leadership the revival of Bihar began and noted "time has come to decide the future of Bihar, the direction in which Bihar will go.
"Future will tell in what direction, we want to take Bihar. Will we go towards the same blurred times or will we take forward the revival of Bihar." He urged the people of Bihar origin to play an "active role" in what is going to happen in Bihar in the next few months.
Kumar reached out to the migrants exhorting them to do something for their homeland as well and promised that the Foundation will provide all help to anybody, who wants to work for Bihar and the forum will keep "live contact" with members of the Bihari Diaspora.
Kumar said, "There was a time when comments were made on Biharis and they were harassed but now they (Biharis) are looked with respect."
Refusing to be called as the Chief Guest of the event of Bihar Foundation, Kumar said, "I am a Bihari. How can I be the Chief Guest. I am the Chief Host of Bihar Foundation."
Kumar also chose the occasion to stress on his pet theme of equal development of all regions saying "some islands of development" in the nation would not do and the country will prosper only when all regions are equally developed.
Noting that migration out of compulsion for livelihood is a "matter of sorrow", he once again reiterated his demand for Special Status to Bihar saying this will facilitate more investment and industrialisation in the state, which will generate employment and stop migration.
The event was originally planned on August 1 here but Kumar cancelled the programme due to the sudden demise of former President APJ Abdul Kalam.
Sources in JD(U) say that Kumar has plans to contact non-resident Biharis living in all parts of the country through the Bihar Samman Sammelan to be organised in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Guwahati.
JD(U) leaders claim that people of Bihar living outside the state are "proud of the achievements of Nitish Kumar government" and have an "emotional connect" with the Chief Minister.
A larger number of people from Bihar stay in metros, who go back to the state during important festivals like Chhath and Diwali. There is a significant population of migrants still enrolled as voters in Bihar.The idea to reach out to Bihari migrants is not new to
Nitish Kumar but this time it is backed by the strategy and planning of Prashant Kishor, a former key campaign consultant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi's 'Chai Pe Charcha' programme to connect with the masses is the brainchild of Kishor.
Kishor, who hails from Bihar, is now working on sharpening Kumar's election campaign and is learnt to have given broad details on how to connect with the huge population in mega cities of non-resident Biharis, who are considered key opinion makers.
Kumar had presided over a Bihar Samman Conference in Burari in Delhi in 2012. Referring to it, Vice President of Bihar Foundation Sanjay Kumar Jha said that the region is now represented by leaders from eastern India in both Assembly and Parliament.
Recalling the contribution of voters from eastern India (mainly Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) in the victory of Aam Aadmi Party, Jha said that he was expecting Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to come for the event today.
Trying to reach out to migrants in December 2013 ahead of the Delhi Assembly polls, Kumar had said there were two Delhis - one for the rich and the other for the poor - and it was the people of Bihar and Purvanchal who helped build the city.
Kumar had said if people from Bihar and Purvanchal stop working, Delhi will stop functioning. On a two-day visit to Delhi then, he had addressed election rallies in Dwarka, Sangam Vihar and Okhla and held meetings in Kiradi Burari, areas with significant migrant population.
Kumar's rally was then considered as a build up to his party's outreach plans for Lok Sabha elections 2014. However, Kumar's JD(U) and Lalu Prasad's RJD faced crushing defeat in the last year's General Elections, with the NDA under Modi winning 31 out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Bihar Foundation, a government body, having branches in various cities of India and abroad, has on its own been organising a number of programmes to connect people of Bihari origin living outside with their roots.
According to a report of the National Capital Region Planning Board based on the 2001 Census, the maximum migration to Delhi is from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which together constitute 64.25 percent of the migrant population.
The share of migrant population from Bihar has increased from 5.77 percent in 1971-1981 to 19.09 percent in 1991-2001. While it was 5.77 percent between 1971 and 1981, it rose to 10.69 percent between 1981 and 1991 and to 19.09 percent between 1991 and 2001.