17:13 GMT23 November 2020
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    Campaigning to elect the 243-member legislative assembly in the Indian state of Bihar has picked up ahead of the first phase of voting on 28 October. Elections in the state will be held in three phases – 28 October, 3 November, and 7 November – and vote counting will take place on 10 November.

    India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday accused the country’s opposition parties of trying to weaken the nation and fritter away the sacrifices of soldiers from Bihar state, among others, in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, where Indian troops had a violent face-off with the Chinese Army in June.

    Modi made the statement as he kick-started his campaign trail with a public meeting in the Sasaram area for the Bihar legislative assembly elections set to be held beginning at the end of October.

    Without naming any party specifically, Modi said the opposition parties want to reverse the status of Jammu and Kashmir (which has been turned into a union territory after previously being a state). 

    “The situation has come to the extent that these (opposition) people have no qualms in supporting those who are trying to weaken India... Is it not an insult of the sentiments of the state, which sends its sons and daughters for the protection of the country’s borders?” asked Modi.

    In Bihar, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is an alliance partner of the state’s governing Janata Dal (United) party, headed by state chief Nitish Kumar.

    The governing coalition is trying to return to power for a second term during the current elections.

    Recalling his government’s decision in August 2019 to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution, which abrogated the special status of Jammu and Kashmir state and made it a union territory, Modi said the opposition parties want to rescind the decision.

    “The country was waiting for several years for removal of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370. We, the NDA government, have taken this decision. But these people are now talking of reversing the decision. They said, once back in power, Article 370 would be restored. Despite all this, they have the courage to seek votes from the people of Bihar”, he said.

    India’s main opposition party Congress has announced it will reverse the Modi government's decision if the party returns to power. 

    Former Finance and Home Minister P. Chidambaram said on 16 October that his party “resolutely stands for restoration of the status and rights of the people” of Jammu and Kashmir.

    ​On the other hand, in his first election rally in Nawada, Bihar on Friday, former Congress Party chief Rahul Gandhi asked Modi, “where is the Bihar package, where are the jobs you promised?”

    He made a reference to Modi's announcement of a massive $5.4 billion package for Bihar to tilt the electoral scales in favour of his party during the legislative assembly elections in 2015.

    Gandhi was accompanied by Tejashwi Yadav, leader of Bihar’s main opposition party Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD). Congress is in a coalition with RJD for the upcoming legislative assembly elections.

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    Tags:
    Indian National Congress, Rahul Gandhi, Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), Narendra Modi, Elections, Bihar, New Delhi, India
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