PATNA: Is Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United (JD-U) shedding its “secular image” slowly after returning to the company of BJP last year? At least two incidents point to this fact.
The first incident took place on Sunday when a senior cabinet colleague of chief minister Nitish Kumar publicly refused to wear the skull cap offered to him at a function organized by the Muslim community in Bihar.
The move was in sharp contrast to the chief minister’s very own remark that the people in public life are required to wear ‘topi’ and ‘tilak’—a statement he had made in a subtle attack on his arch-rival-tuned-friend Narendra Modi who once had refused to wear skull cap offered by a Muslim clergy.
However, it was altogether a different story witnessed at the Talimi Bedari conference organised at Katihar on Sunday.
As the Energy minister Bijendra Yadav reached the venue to attend the meet, the organisers tried to put a skull cap on his head.
Much to their disappointment, however, the minister refused to wear the cap on his head and instead handed it someone standing behind him.
The Muslim leaders were quick to denounce the move of the minister. “At first, the minister declined to visit the mazar and then refused to put on skull cap offered to him at the dais. It looks like the JD-U has been working on the agenda of the BJP after returning to latter company,” alleged a senior Muslim leader Mohammad Salauddin.
“It’s very shocking and surprising. He must know that a skull cap is closely associated with Muslims’ faith and sentiments,” he added.
The development seems to be negating the very own “guidelines” of the chief minister Kumar about how a politician should behave in public.
“To run the country, you have to take everyone along… at times you will have to wear a topi (cap), at times a tilak (vermillion mark on the forehead),” was how the chief minister had said at a function organized by the National Commission for Minorities in Delhi in September 2013.
The remarks were in response to the move by Modi, then Gujarat chief minister who had refused to wear skull cap offered to him by a Muslim cleric in 2011.
This is the second time in quick succession that the JD-U has showed its scant regard towards its once much-flaunted “secular image”.
Last week, JD-U’s national general secretary and party spokesperson Pavan Kumar Varma in a significant shift from party’s earlier stand had sought for construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya.
“Lord Ram is one of the most respected deities of one of the oldest religions of the world. Why should a temple not be built? It’ll remind the country again of the importance of the highest values of behaviour & etiquette associated with him,” Varma told the media last week.
He had urged the people opposing temple construction to give up their protests in the interests of the country and Hindus adding as a Hindu, he wants the temple to be constructed at Ayodhaya since “Ram Lala” was born at that place.
Although the party in a quick action sought to distance itself from the “personal observations” of its party spokesperson, the message has not gone down well within the society.
This is the first time in many years that the JD-U has openly come out in support of Ram temple saying the issue was linked to the sentiments of millions of Hindus.
The frequent “change” in stands of the JD-U has surprised the political pundits.