PATNA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday showered praise on Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for the prohibition drive in the state and the grand success of Prakashotsav as the two leaders shared the stage for the first time after demonetisation.
Addressing a large crowd at Gandhi Maidan comprising mainly of Sikhs drawn from around the country and abroad for Prakashotsav, the 350th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh, Modi was expansive in his admiration of Kumar’s initiatives. Minutes before this, Kumar also briefly praised Modi for maintaining prohibition in Gujarat. Modi’s praise of Kumar caught political circles by surprise and renewed speculation about the two leaders inching closer, especially after Kumar’s support for demonetisation despite his party JD(U)’s strong reservations.
“I congratulate Nitishjee from my heart for his campaign for prohibition. Bringing reform in society is a very difficult task. It is also difficult to even touch it. But despite that, the way he has run the campaign for prohibition and the pain he has taken to save the coming generations from addiction is praiseworthy. I congratulate him very much,” said Modi.
Indicating his desire for nationwide prohibition, Modi added: “This is neither Nitish Kumar’s or Bihar’s task alone. I urge the people of all sections to make it a success… Bihar will become an example. Nitish Kumar’s campaign will certainly succeed”.
Kumar, addressing Modi as “our honourable prime minister,” spoke about Bihar’s initiatives such as organization of Prakashotsav in Patna, Kalchakra Puja of Buddhists in Bodh Gaya, plans to celebrate the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom and social reform movement in Champaran, and the ongoing implementation of total prohibition. “For 12 long years, he (Modi) has ensured maintenance of prohibition in Gujarat,” said Kumar.
Before delivering their speeches, Kumar and Modi were seen sharing light moments and laughing together as they sat shoulder by shoulder on the dais along with Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan, Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal and Bihar Governor Ramnath Kovind.
Modi also praised the grand organization of Prakashotsav lavishly, saying the event, though organised in Patna, would send a message of peace and fraternity around the world. “I was told he (Kumar) himself came to Gandhi Maidan to personally take stock of the preparations. I congratulate him whole-heartedly,” said Modi.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and his two sons – Tej Pratap Yadav and Tejaswi Yadav, both ministers in Bihar government – were also present at the venue. On being asked about Modi’s praise of Kumar for the prohibition drive in Bihar, the RJD chief said: “He (Modi) has praised what is true. It is not Nitish Kumar alone who has done this. We all (JD-U allies RJD and Congress) have contributed to its implementation”.