PATNA: Barely seven months after they came together, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and his ally the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) look caught in a bitter confrontation once again.
The fresh cause of tension in their relations is the alleged bids by the by BJP leaders to fan up communal passions in Bihar resulting in registering of a case against Arjit Shashwat, son of federal Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey, among eight BJP leaders by the state administration.
While the state administration finds federal minister’s son responsible for recent communal clashes in communally-sensitive Bhagalpur district, the BJP have threatened to launch an intensive agitation if the cases registered against minister’s son and other party leaders were not withdrawn within two days.
“The BJP leaders have been implicated in face cases. We ask the administration to withdraw cases against our party leaders within two days failing which we will launch agitation,” Bhagalpur district unit chief of BJP Rohit Pandey told the media on Wednesday.
Minister’s son is accused of taking out unauthorized procession in Bhagalpur district on Saturday. The procession which passed through a 15-km route which included at least half-a-dozen Muslim-dominated localities ultimately resulted in communal clashes, leave many injured.
Eventually, the state government had to rush central paramilitary forces and ban internet services to bring the situation under control.
That is not the lone worry for chief minister Kumar who returned to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in July last year after breaking away from the erstwhile ruling Grand Alliance with which support he had won the last 2015 Bihar state elections.
In the last two days, Kumar has expressed strong annoyance over the way some top BJP leaders have been allegedly caught on camera trying to create communal tension and have issued a stern warning to his ally in subtle way.
“I won’t tolerate attempts to disturb communal harmony at any cost. Just like my uncompromising stand on corruption, I won’t allow communalism to flare up. I can’t compromise with it no matter what is the consequence,” Kumar told a function in Patna on Tuesday evening, amply indicating his level of annoyance. He went on to add, “We are coalition partners, but I am heading the government”. The statement is said to be an attempt to allay fears in the mind of the minority class people.
Barely a day earlier, Bihar chief minister had another piece of advice for the BJP when he came out in strong support of federal minister and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief Ram Vilas Paswan suggesting the BJP to shed its “anti-Muslim image”.
“As the BJP-led government is working with the agenda of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (collective efforts, inclusive growth)’, it needed to do away with anti-minority perception. The early it sheds its anti-Muslim image, the better it will be for the NDA in 2019 elections,” was how Paswan had suggested the BJP while talking to the media on Sunday.
Kumar supported Paswan saying what he said was true. “He(Paswan) is not a small leader. I support what he said. He met me last night and we discussed many issues. We should respect his views,” Kumar said.
However, the BJP has reacted bitterly to the “unwarranted advice” coming from the Paswan-Kumar duo. “There is no need to change BJP’s perception. We don’t want any certificate from anyone,” state BJP youth wing chief Nitin Navin told the media today.
The main opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has asked the chief minister to act against the BJP leaders allegedly trying to fan up communal passions in the society.
“Nitish Kumar should walk the talk and act against people like (Ashwini Kumar) Choubey, Giriraj (Singh) and Nityanand Rai who are trying to create communal rift in the society. He must not adopt double standards all the time,” tweeted Bihar opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav today.
According to Yadav, the BJP leaders made abortive bids to create communal tensions in Araria, Darbhanga and Bhagalpur after badly losing by-elections in Bihar despite all efforts.