Sonia plays minority card in Bihar, attacks Nitish Kumar

Patna, Oct 18 (IANS) The Congress is committed to secularism and has never joined hands with non-secular forces, party president Sonia Gandhi said Monday while launching a scathing attack on the Nitish Kumar government ahead of the Bihar assembly elections beginning this week.

Gandhi, who also stressed on the state government not utilising central funds for development, said at an election rally in Kishanganj: ‘We have lost elections but never discarded secularism. The Congress has never joined hands with non-secular party to gain power.’

Hoping to attract the votes of the Muslim community, which constitutes over 67 percent of the population in Kishanganj, about 350 km from here, she said the Congress was committed to secularism.

Attacking the alliance government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) in the state, she said Nitish Kumar claimed he was a secularist but was running a government with a party opposed to secularism.

Gandhi reminded the people of Kishanganj that Nitish Kumar, who now opposed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s poll campaigning in Bihar, had neither resigned nor condemned the BJP leader when Gujarat was aflame with riots. He continued as union minister in the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

‘It is enough to show that Nitish Kumar’s stand against Modi now is nothing but a double standard,’ she said.

‘Yeh janta ke aankh mein dhool jhonkne ke alawa kya hai? (What is this but not deceiving the people),’ Gandhi asked.

According to the Congress chief, who is on a daylong campaign for her party before the first phase of the elections begins Oct 21, New Delhi had provided crores of rupees for the development of Bihar but it had not percolated down to the poor.

‘It is a sad thing that the Bihar government failed to spend and utilise the funds provided by the central government for development of the state.’

‘In Kishanganj itself, the central government provided huge funds as per welfare schemes to be implemented in a region with minority population but major part of it was neither spent nor utilised. It appears the Bihar government has no time to spend money on the welfare of Muslims,’ Gandhi said.

Citing another example, she said the state government had failed to set up a centre of the Aligarh Muslim University in Kishanganj. ‘The state government has failed to provide land for it.’

She appealed to the voters to give the Congress a chance after two decades of non-Congress rule.

Kishanganj comprises the four assembly constituencies of Kishanganj, Kochadhaman, Bahadurgarh and Thakurgarh. The Congress, which is contesting all 243 seats on its own, has put up Muslim candidates in all the four constituencies.

The six-phase elections in Bihar begin Oct 21 and end Nov 20.

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